A mix of beauty and frustration

Sutra

Birmingham Hippodrome

***

THIS production is a real fusion of different traditions and art forms. Bringing together the choreographic skills of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the martial arts expertise of the Shaolin Monks,  the visual art of Antony Gormley and live music created by Szymon Brzoska, it is a thorough mixing pot.

And out of this mixing bowl is born a production full of beauty and lyricism but also a show which is a little frustrating.

At its best we are thrilled by the amazing athletic feats of the monks as they leap and whirl in a dexterous performance of martial arts which are forceful but also balletic in their grace. Some of the moves (I am giving nothing away here) evoke awed responses from an audience who cannot quite believe how calmly and easily these guys can take the shocks.

There is also plenty of humour and gentleness as performer Ali Thanet quizzically shadows the monks in an interplay of movement which reminds us that slow precise choreography can be just as difficult as acrobatics. There is a wonderful scene where, encased in a silver box, he mirrors a young monk with intricate movements which recall the need for balance, stillness and peace even at the heart of action.

The live music is also very much a part of the production - from tense violin strings which feel like they could snap as easily as a muscle through to soft melodies and then harsh punching rhythms.

But at its worst Sutra does sometimes feel a little disjointed and even clumsy. As the monks drag the large wooden boxes around the stage again and again there are times when it feels more like watching a furniture removal firm than a group of artists.

And this is the frustration. There are some truly amazing moments in this show but there are also parts which feel like padding. Strip away this extraneous time filling and we would have a production which is something really special.

That said Sutra, which was premiered at Sadler's Wells five years ago and was showcased in Birmingham in the International Dance Festival of 2010, has been a huge success across the globe. To 08-05-13.

Diane Parkes 

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