We are living in strange times, where an uneasy calm suggests that major upheaval may be about to overwhelm us. Easy to become introspective and fearful.
Here is an antidote to our unsettled existence. Rambert just keep getting better, more inventive, more lyrical, more beautiful. Their latest touring work has come to Norwich first – we are just up the road from the South Bank – so is fresh as fresh can be and begging us to love it. You would need a heart of stone not to be seduced by this monochrome masterpiece.
Based on a Seventeenth Century play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, with music by Polish composer Witold Lutosławski, we look at the incarcerated world of Prince Segismundo, imprisoned by the madness of his father. Add some seriously grim inspiration from Soviet-era Polish drama and this could be starting to feel a bit, well, challenging. But it is not at all. Choreographer Kim Brandstrup gives us one of the most joyful, elegant and life affirming dance pieces that I have ever enjoyed.
The two halves of the work represent two days in the life of the Prince. Freed for a day from his confinement he goes on a rampage of human actions, damaging all around him. Returned to his confinement and pardoned for his excess, he ventures out once more with a more delicate sensitivity and awareness of the wonders of the world around him, feeling that the first day was nothing but a dream. To be honest you do not really need to know any of that to enjoy this work as it is presented by this hugely talented company.
Multiple dancers play the role of the Prince and those he encounters in his headlong dash for the many experiences of life that he has been denied. The action is complex, dazzling, impressive, elegant and accomplished. The set and design and lighting are breathtakingly good, with a self-reference of setting the first half in a dancers rehearsal room, the second being the blanker spaces of a wider world.
This is a captivating work that will hold your attention from start to finish as the Rambert company use every inch of the Theatre Royal stage, with a dedicated orchestra giving a finely balanced rendition of the music composed by Lutosławski which is delicate and often quite minimal but perfectly matched to the dance. Every Rambert visit to Norwich is a high point in the theatre calendar and they show once again with Life is a Dream that they are at the forefront of modern dance theatre.
© Julian Swainson 2018
Rambert Life is a Dream, Thursday 27 & Friday 28 September, 7.30pm. Matinee September 28 1.30pm. Tickets £10-£26. Discounts for Friends & Corporate Club, Over-60s, Under-25s, Schools and Groups. Pre-Performance Talk on Friday September 28 at 6.30pm (tickets are free but must be booked in advance from the Box Office).
For more info or to BOOK ONLINE www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk