Akram Khan Company ★★★★ Sadler's Wells | Nov 23 - Dec 4, 2021


Akram Khan's Outwitting the Devil, which receives its UK premiere here is presented as an epic dance piece about ritual and remembering in the midst of our ever-changing planet. It draws on an ancient Mesopotamian Epic and tells of the punishment meted out by the gods on the young King Gilgamesh for destroying the legendary Cedar Forest and killing its guardian. As in many of his works, Akram Khan fuses contemporary dance with Kathak and other choreographic styles to bring us a mesmeric and exciting work lasting eighty minutes. This is played out to Vincenzo Lamagna's superb, if sometimes deafening, soundscape which ranges from almost imperceptible murmurs to thunderous crashes. Visual designer, Tom Scutt, works hand in hand with lighting designer, Aideen Malone, to conjure up wonderful images which frequently emphasise the exquisite musculature of the four bare-chested men and the delicate elegance of the two women. At times, the drama could be a little clearer as dancers morph from one character to another, often in tenebrous, if atmospheric, gloom. Meanwhile the occasional use of voice-over in French left us slightly baffled. However, the amazing technique of the six dancers is never in doubt with superb lines and extensions of the balletic and contemporary elements counterbalancing the turned up toes and sharp hand movements of Kathak dance. It is suggested that these could be Akram Khan's final performances – works as innovative and memorable as this will ensure that his legacy lives on.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Jean Louis Fernandez.

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