JAMES WILTON DANCE – THE FOUR SEASONS – Exeter Northcott Theatre


8 February 2023

4****

Exeter Northcott Theatre has been a crusader in bringing dance to the stage and the audiences have been treated to many variations of the artform over the years. They are usually very well supported and the appearance of Cornwall-based James Wilton Dance was welcomed with open arms by a packed house.

Wilton is not only the artistic director of the Company, but choreographs and performs this latest work – THE FOUR SEASONS. It is no surprise that the strains of  Antonio Vivaldi are likely to spring (pardon the pun) to mind – but here it is in the interpretation of the composers best known work by British composer Max Richter.

This performance piece is a tour-de-force for James Wilton and Sarah Jane Taylor who exert a physicality on stage which consumes the eye and stuns the mind – bodily contortions and gymnastics of a kind which is offered with such an apparent lack of effort that it is difficult to comprehend. Likewise the seemingly arbitrary moves are point precision as the two dancers combine at exactly the right moment. It is extraordinary.

Wilton subtitles each of the seasons; Spring – The Singularity; Summer – The Expanding Universe; Autumn – The Cooling Universe; Winter – Entropic Heat Death. We are informed that each of the seasons in this piece is linked to a phase of the universe, but also we are presented something akin to the Circle of Life – birth giving way to life and ending in the inevitable. Atmospheric lighting is almost like a third character in the story augmented with the use of a ‘sun’ a startling floor mesh of miniature lights and a wrist mounted torch – all used in a wonderfully original fashion.

For those who may find contemporary dance is something of a mystery, then the monochrome production may have not helped them understand the narrative; colours for each section, as used in the advertising posters, may have given a little more illumination.

The use of Richter’s music (there are often comparisons with Philip Glass and Michael Nyman) is so effective – for purists, it may seem an abomination to fiddle with Vivaldi, but Richter is able to enhance and elevate the sections of the original he uses which are a stunning background to the dance.

At 55 minutes, the audience would definitely have been happy for more – but Wilton knows how to leave people wanting a return and I am sure they will do so in the future. This is a production to be admired and lauded and all power to Exeter Northcott Theatre for offering it up to their customers.


PERFORMERS & CREATIVES

CHOREOGRAPHY & PERFORMANCE – JAMES WILTON & SARAH JANE TAYLOR

MUSIC – RECOMPOSED BY MAX RICHTER with extensions by MICHAL WOJTA

LIGHTING & PRODUCTION – PAUL MILFORD

COSTUME & SET DESIGN – VIBEKE ANDERSEN

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