28 April 2022
One of the many productions which came to a premature end because of the pandemic is now back on the road; Balletboyz has created an enormously popular following and the triumph of the founders, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, in bringing contemporary dance to a wider audience, cannot be underestimated. How lucky is Exeter Northcott Theatre in being a venue which they visit. Judging by this return, their popularity remains undimmed.
In the interim between the creation of this programme and the re-start, the performers have all changed, bar one. A short film, ‘The Intro’ by Sarah Golding acts as a prelude to the show, with the company using their signature cohesive moves punctuated by a cheekiness, a sense of humour and a skilful execution.
In a filmed introduction to her work ‘Ripple’, choreographer, Xie Xin, explains the concept of her piece; the continual flow of energy created by memories and how the movement is like the ripples of water which never stop moving. The challenges she faced in working with a all-male group are outlined, but she must surely be pleased with the results. In the constant movement on stage, the performers meld and react and never stop the motions. The dynamics start slowly and build and subside again. The movement is precise, but free and the viewer is mesmerised from start to finish. With a soundscape, by Jiang Shaofeng, of strings and clangs and the waves on the beach, this is a piece which offers much to ponder. It’s a company piece of course, but Seirian Griffiths captures the eye throughout.
‘Bradley 4:18’ was created by Maxine Doyle working with the original company along with composer Cassie Kinoshi and takes its inspiration from the work of writer and singer, Kae Tempest. The six dancers offer different versions of the same character at 4:18 in the morning; nervy, arrogant, drunk…. their smart suits distressed; black eyes, the result of fighting. The music is jazzy; sometimes discordant, but with great rhythms which the performers translate to movements – sometimes accompanied by spoken words. Individuals get the chance for solo performance, before they come together as one in a wonderful evocation of a long night out.
The piece is full of invention and fun, offering the viewer a multitude of stories to digest and enjoy and the chance to admire the sheer skill at work on the stage.
Throughout the two pieces lighting plays a hugely important part. No set is involved – indeed in ‘Bradley 4:18’ the stage is stripped entirely of dressings – but the work of lighting designer, Andrew Ellis, in creating such atmospherics on a blank canvas cannot be understated. Such skill is possibly overlooked when the performance is so classy, but the show is considerably diminished without it.
The good-sized audience at Exeter lapped up ‘Balletboyz’ – when you have such creativity offered to you, you envelope yourself in it. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing this high-class company, seek it out and realise what all the flag waving is about.
CAST & CREATIVES
CHOREOGRAPHER – XIE XIN
COMPOSER – JIANG SHAOFENG
COSTUME DESIGN – KATHERINE WATT
LIGHTING DESIGN – ANDREW ELLIS
REHEARSAL ASSISTANT – WANG QI
CHOREOGRAPHER – MAXINE DOYLE
COMPOSER – CASSIE KINOSHI
COSTUNE DESIGNER – KATERINE WATT
LIGHTING DESIGNER – ANDREW ELLIS
REHEARSAL ASSISTANT – BRADLEY WALLER
FIGHT DIRECTOR – KATE WATERS