Babel (words), Sadler's Wells, London
Friday 21 May 2010
Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is known for his collaborations. He's recently worked with Akram Khan, with Shaolin Temple monks, with the sculptor Antony Gormley. Gormley is back for Babel (words): Cherkaoui's multi-cultural cast argue in a mix of languages, framed by steel Gormley shapes that suggest towers or cages.
In one scene, people queue up at an airport barrier, to be scanned by a robotic woman. Having checked them out, she drops a mechanical curtsy and wishes them a good journey in their own language. Ulrika Kinn Svennson makes a brilliant android, teetering in high PVC boots, with a different public-relations croon for every speech.
The scene is lively, meandering and deliberately repetitive. That's characteristic: Cherkaoui has funny scenes that go on too long, bright ideas and a wandering structure. Babel (words) drifts through ideas about language and communication, before deciding, rather predictably, that we're all human together.
Cherkaoui's recent works have stressed movement and stage design. With Babel (words), he returns to the physical theatre of his work for Les Ballets C. de la B., with a similar mix of music, speech and movement. Cherkaoui spends time pointing out the arrogance of American English, with Darryl E Woods holding forth about the language's power and range. Later, we see Woods as a beggar, remembering when English was the most powerful language in the world. That feels obvious, but I loved the spin Cherkaoui later puts on it. We see Woods, and English, as a stomping monster, a human Godzilla. The other dancers become his reaching, stamping limbs, banding together like a Transformers robot.
In another sequence, a philosophical Frenchman gradually becomes a caveman as he crosses the stage: hunching over, language becoming grunts and gestures. When he moves back, his Neanderthal crouch becomes an urbane stroll again.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees