Thursday, March 16, 2017

TREE OF CODES at Sadler's Wells Theatre: beyond words so let's dance...

Take one cutting-edge choreographer, one unclassable book, one current musician and one modern artist... now stir it up and stand back and marvel; I give you the truly astonishing TREE OF CODES.

As you are aware Constant Reader, it was through Wayne McGregor's hypnotic WOOLF WORKS at Covent Garden that I finally found an appreciation for dance in all it's forms.  Although McGregor has been the resident choreographer at Covent Garden for the past eleven years he still works with his own independent company which he uses for more avant garde projects.  For TREE OF CODES his troupe has teamed up with the Paris Opera Ballet to form a company of 15 dancers who are simply unstoppable!

McGregor was a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer's artifact TREE OF CODES and seeking to work on a project with the installation artist Olafur Eliasson he was thrilled to discover that Eliasson and Foer were friends.  TREE OF CODES was Foer's 'remix' of the Bruno Schultz novel STREET OF CROCODILES which consisted of Foer cutting away words to make his own book out of the existing text.

However McGregor's extraordinary body-bending (and mind-bending) choreography is actually only a part of a glorious whole which shows him to be a true collaborator.  The propulsive electro score came from the composer Jamie xx which was an excellent aural backdrop to McGregor's seemingly limitless choreography.

For me the key element to the show's success was the astonishing visual design of Olafur Eliasson.  Creating WOW moments is what Eliasson does - I discovered him, as a great many others did, in 2003 when he created The Weather Project for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall a.k.a. The Big Sun - one of the truly most awesome creations I have ever seen!

Since then I have marvelled at his work with light and water as well as his simple-but-profound Ice Watch in Paris 2015, for which he transplanted 12 large blocks of ice, weighing in total 80 tonnes, to form a clock-like circle with which the public could interact, only for it to slowly melt to nothingness in only 9 days.

Here in essence using only lights, mirrors and screens he created a total immersive stage environment which time-and-again found me wanting to get up there to stop the show and shout out loud "but how do you do THAT??"  Of course I would never actually want to know that - it's so rare that nowadays you see a genuine scenic wonder on stage that I wanted it to never end.  Two screens descended at one point: a couple were between the audience and the first screen with a second couple between the first and second screens then beyond that was a large semi-circular mirror - the first couple however were only reflected once while the second seemed to be reflected ad infinitum... like, how??  It was like watching a 70s Top Of The Pops camera effect live!

Oh and the reflections moved too! One moment they were at stage level then they hovered above the dancers as the orange neon strip-lights hanging above the dancers also multiplied behind them.  Each 'scene' saw a new vision unfolding but always with a breathtaking simplicity that made you wonder why no one had ever done that before.

The last scene was again a feast for the eyes - and ears - with the whole company onstage but seen through a large screen which had two large circles in the middle which slowly opened and rotated at different speeds filling the whole stage and auditorium with shafts of solid coloured light, all quite stunning.

TREE OF CODES was a totally unexpected wonder but only played a week at Sadler's Wells - hopefully it will appear again soon.  I recommend it highly

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