Assembly Hall ★★★★★ Sadler's Wells Theatre | March 20 - 23, 2024


Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young's Assembly Hall starts in a world many of us are familiar with: a meeting in what is apparently a school gymnasium. The local society of medieval re-enactors must decide whether they can afford to go on and mount their annual Quest Fest event. Can they reanimate their group or should they vote for dissolution? The eight Board members get together, and their movements, choreographed to the meeting's small talk and procedural bickering, are humorously animatronic. It is at this point that all the standard "meeting personalities" come to the fore. However as they chatter, the Board members gradually take on the personae of their medieval counterparts. The quest to come together and, perhaps save their common enterprise, becomes the larger journey of their collective imagination. Insecure Dave (Gregory Lau) emerges as the knight saviour, inept chairperson (Doug Letheren) becomes the Fisher King and Renée Sigouin, who revives Lau at the opening of Assembly Hall, transforms into his melancholy daemon. The choreography becomes more fluid and dramatic as we enter the mythic world and the pas de deux are elegant and enthralling, while the tableaux and group work are wonders to behold. There are many possible interpretations of Pite and Young's enigmatic work, but there is clearly the theme of death and resurrection in both the spiritual and natural worlds. When the benevolent and protected order of re-enactors reassemble the knight and decide to continue their presentation of Quest Fest, they become a microcosmic representation of that cyclical reality. This is a piece that takes on some large themes as it strives to reveal the miraculous in the mundane. That circle of chairs in the gymnasium ultimately becomes a metaphor for Arthur's round table, an image of community, aspiration and continuity.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo © Michael Slobodian

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