Dance Review






Sadler's Wells presents

les ballets C. de la B.

Alain Platel/Fabrizio Cassol


Sadler’s Wells

5 – 7 February, 2009






A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!


There was a moment, in watching this extraordinary and deeply moving production, when all ten dancers stood facing backwards, slowly moving, writhing, undulating almost, and I realised I had never seen human beings looking each so utterly alone, so completely engrossed in their own particular suffering, grappling as best they can with their own lives. Such is the power of dance in the hands of a man renowned for his challenging and provocative work.

Matthew Passion is a story of suffering, the suffering of Christ, but in Alain Platel’s hands, it is soaked through with his belief that to show suffering is important because it ‘intensifies the commiseration and compassion’. Although its focus is the story of the crucifixion, it is told from the perspective of the mother (soprano) and the pain she experiences about the sacrifice of her descendants. Christ is portrayed as having two souls, a male and a female soul with strikingly similar voices (alto/mezzo and counter-tenor). Fabrizio Cassol reworks Bach’s beautiful music into a narrative that draws together the different elements into an extraordinarily rich whole, where the influences of African music can be clearly heard along with the chorales and arias expressive of the Christian Protestant tradition that influenced Bach.

The combination of the principal singers Claron McFadden (soprano) Monica Brett-Crowther (alto/mezzo) and Serge Kakudji (countertenor), the orchestra (Aka Moon and guests Magic Malik (flute and vocals), Tcha Limberger (violin) and Krassimir Sterev (accordion)) and the dancers who perform some of the recitatives is simply breathtaking. Powerful and controlled, the beautiful voices constantly ground both the music and the dance. There are times when singers become dancers become musicians in a seamless melodic whole that shimmers with life moving within sound.
The dancing is an intense, energetic hybrid mix of forms that directly express the personalities and cultural background of the dancers, one form merging into another in endlessly fascinating combinations. Platel says that he ‘turn(s) people inside out’ and these dancers are quite literally pushed to their limits and beyond. As one watches, shoulders and arms become a herd of strange creatures, fingers and toes insect-like, mouths and eyes take on a life of their own.

It is hard to watch this production without feeling by turns appalled at the suffering portrayed; there are scenes of almost unbearable distress, and then a strange empathy, a glimpse into and alignment with the states of mind so superbly expressed by these dancers. And this is Platel’s unquestionable skill, to ‘show the inside of things’, to physically interpret the deepest, most overpowering of human emotions.
While certainly not for the faint-hearted, this is a production that deserves the widest possible audience.
Thursday 5th to Saturday 7th February 2009
Performances at 7.30pm


Tickets: £10 - £25
Ticket Office: 0844 412 4300 or

Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue
London EC1R 4TN





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