Sutra, Sadler’s Wells, London
Thursday 04 April 2013
Monks from China’s Shaolin Temple stand perched on tall wooden boxes. Swaying from side to side, they rock the crates until they fall, leaping free at the last moment. Famous for their warrior skills, in Sutra the monks are both movers and pieces in a puzzle, setting up patterns or standing inside the boxes as they fall like dominoes.
Created in 2008, Sutra is one of the biggest hits produced by Sadler’s Wells. Since the London theatre became a producing house, it’s gone in for big name collaborations between international artists. Sutra, which marks its fifth anniversary with a UK tour, brought together choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, sculptor Antony Gormley and the monks of the Shaolin temple. It’s a spare, thoughtful work, building delicate patterns out of performers and the monumental set.
Gormley is best known for sculptures based on the human body. This time, he created a series of containers for living bodies, plain rectangular boxes. They can be built into wooden mazes or forbidding walls, stacked as shelves that become bunks for the monks. In one scene, upright boxes arranged in concentric circles and tilted, like the petals of an opening flower.
The last box is made of metal. The show starts with a Western man and a child monk perched on top of it, playing with a tiny model of the set. Originally, the man was Cherkaoui himself. At this revival, his role is played by one of his co-choreographers, either Damien Fournier or, at this performance, Ali Thabet. As they move the pieces, monks shift the full-sized boxes behind them. Then both players get drawn into the action.
Like Cherkaoui, Thabet has rumpled hair and beard, with sports clothes and suit jacket, dancing in loose, wriggly moves. The monks are taut and muscular, with shaved heads and neat tunics. Sometimes he conducts them; sometimes they crowd him out, at one point edging him right off a tower of boxes. Sitting behind a plain white gauze, musicians play Szymon Brzóska’s sparse, atmospheric score, with layers of strings and percussion.
Sutra can get lost in its own patterns, or too self-conscious about the image of choreographer as controller, moving people as the pieces in a game. By the time a monk knocks over Thabet’s tidy model, we’ve got the point. It can take a while to set up those intricate patterns, though I suspect the changing mazes look better from upstairs.
At its best, Sutra mixes Zen precision with exhilarating movement. Monks dash between the walls of the mazes, scamper over the top of tilting ramparts, brace themselves inside moving boxes or dash out of the way just in time. Creating the patterns, they become part of them.
Until 6 April. Box office 0844 412 4300. Touring until 18 May. www.danceconsortium.com
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
Arts & Ents blogs
The 50 Best Christmas songs: Bells continue to ring for the Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York'
Shia LaBeouf's Nymphomaniac sex scene removed from YouTube
Eminem, Drake and Jay Z among Spotify's most-streamed artists of 2013
Morgan Freeman portrait: The world's most realistic finger painting?
Nymphomaniac trailer shown to children at screening of Disney film Frozen
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 4 Syrian rebels consider joining forces with regime troops to fight al-Qa’ida
- 5 ‘Put it in my mouth’: Viewers outraged by apparent reference to oral sex in VIP e-cig advert