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Rambert – Life is A Dream

An engrossing and beautiful performance. Did I understand it all? No. Did it matter? Not a jot.

modern ballet dancing two men

As more of an amateur enthusiast than an informed aficionado, my biggest concern when going to see a performance like ‘Life Is A Dream’ is whether it might all go a bit over my head. I mean, it’s entirely possible that I might not understand what’s going on at all… Two minutes into Ballet Rambert’s performance of this 17th century play and I realised that it was far more complex than any of the more traditional ballets that we’ve all heard of.

I also realised that that their combination of movement, costume and music would have me completely captivated for the next 90 minutes. Choreographer Kim Brandstrup has done an incredible job,somehow making every movement flow between the cast members, often giving the feeling of a continuous, roiling sea.

The end result is that you can’t help but be totally drawn in to every movement. The scenery adds a fantastic atmosphere and the use of projections and sound to create the outside world adds another dimension again. Having worked on blockbuster films like Warhorse and The Man From Uncle, costume designer Holly Waddington was well equipped to go to town for this production, combining styling from the 17 century with some 1950’s design influences. The resulting costumes are sumptuous and rich with a free-flowing, velvety appearance that perfectly suits the style of dance.

The final piece of the jigsaw is the music written by Witold Lutoslawski which in the first act reminded me of one of Miles Davis’ less accessible jazz albums and in parts of the second was reminiscent of Bernstein’s West Side Story. Complex, edgy and perfectly fitting to the performance.

Short and sweet (we were out in under two hours including the interval), I’d definitely recommend trying to catch it as it travels around the country.

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