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Review: Lest We Forget, Barbican Centre

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Vikki Jane Vile

Les We Forget

There are few evenings of dance that leave me still unable to think of anything else the morning after, but now 12 hours since viewing Tamara Rojo’s most ambitious commission as artistic director to date,  I am still marvelling and processing the emotional impact Lest We Forget had on me.

This brave programme, which includes three new works from young choreographers Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and world-famous contemporary choreographer Akram Khan, focuses on the gritty intensity of the Great War, with two of the works homing in on the role of women during this time.

Pleasingly, for a ballet purist who feels a lot more comfortable around tutus and tiaras, the evening opened with Scarlett’s No Man’s Land, a piece inspired by the separation endured between men and women and that has its roots firmly in the classical vocabulary. The piece begins with the women preparing for the departure of their loved ones. There is a powerful image of the women standing behind the men with their arms folded up in front of the men’s chests representing the straps of their backpacks as they prepare to trudge off to war. What follows is a series of visually beautiful pas de deux, climaxing in the moment where one of the women finds no-one returning for her and she shares one last duet with her partner. My first ever live viewing of lead principal Alina Cojocaru (on this occasion partnered by Zdenek Konvalina) was truly mesmeric with its acrobatic lifts and her fairy-like touch making for a heart-breakingly beautiful denouement.

Although widely criticised for its inclusion in the programme was George Williamson’s Firebird. I’d argue the piece provides some colourful light relief after being so emotionally spent during the last piece. It’s still a mythical treat for the eyes with its colourful costuming and the title role is played superbly by Ksenia Ovsyanick showcasing her athleticism and flexibility.

Russell Maliphant’s Second Breath left me a little cold; it is by far the most stark and simplistic of the pieces, set against a totally bare set. The piece doesn’t take any narrative shape and the subtleties were lost on me. It includes another pas de deux featuring Alina Cojocaru; however, nothing as powerful as that seen in No Man’s Land.

The evening concludes with impact in the much-anticipated new work from Akram Khan, Dust. It is another piece that focuses on the role of women, this time portraying them as a powerful workforce with repetitive pumping movements to the pulsating rhythm of the beat. The men leave them, clambering over into no man’s land to experience life in the trenches. The final duet features Rojo herself in another repetitive series of stomping movements that peters out into floating waltz steps as she is finally left twirling by herself, as if under a trance.

Lest We Forget is a highly original night in the English National Ballet’s history and might just be remembered as the time when this company, used to touring the classics such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, really re-invented itself.

Lest We Forget is playing at the Barbican Centre until 12 April. For more information and tickets, see the English National Ballet’s website. Photo by ASH.

Vikki Jane Vile

Vikki Jane Vile

Vikki Jane Vile is a theatre lover and freelance writer specialising in dance, regularly writing for Dance Today magazine and In 2010 she won Dancing Times Young Writer competition. Her career since has included work for London Children’s Ballet and South East Dance in administration and marketing capacities. Next year she is looking forward to attending the UK’s biggest dance event, Move It as an official blogger and reporter.

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Ticket Offer: £15 tickets to Scenes From a Marriage at the Barbican Centre

Posted on 13 November 2013 by A Younger Theatre

We’ve always considered the Barbican as a the king of theatres. With their extensive presentation of European work, you really can’t get any better than settling down in the Barbican Theatre and watching an epic production. Here we give you a special £15 ticket offer for Toneelgroep’s Scenes From A Marriage. Enjoy!

Scenes From A Marriage

Scenes From A Marriage
17 Nov, Barbican Theatre

‘Toneelgroep are well known for giving classic texts vigorous modern makeovers and it’s certainly the case here. An audacious re-imagining of Bergman’ Time Out ****

Illuminating Bergman’s world, Ivo van Hove’s theatrical adaptation invites audiences to intimate onstage spaces in which three sets of actors portray Johan and Marianne at different ages. Simultaneous performances converge, bringing their universal battle for love, identity and understanding to a surprising conclusion.

Save 50% on tickets, now only £15 (usually £30) for the performance on Sunday 17 November.

When booking online enter when prompted ‘17112’, or booking on the phone quote ‘Bergman Offer’.

‘His work is unique, raw, shocking, surprising, hilarious – everything you want theatre to be’ Cate Blanchett on Ivo van Hove

Offer valid for 17 Nov performance only. Not valid in conjunction with any other offer. T&Cs apply.

See the Barbican Theatre website for more information or call the box office on 020 7638 8891

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Review: Stories from an Invisible Town

Posted on 02 December 2012 by Guy Jones

Hugh Hughes welcomes us as we enter the Pit Theatre at the Barbican. He congratulates us on the various efforts we made to get there tonight. Someone came by bike – imagine. On such a cold night.  If Build-a-Bear Workshop offered a storytelling bear option, Hughes’s lilting Welsh tones would be perfect for the voice. We even love him for berating the latecomers, and know we’re in safe hands for two hours of unconventional storytelling.

Stories from an Invisible Town starts when the Hughes Mam decides to move from the family home in Anglesey into a flat, following the death of her husband. Her children, Delyth, Derwyn and Hugh, all pitch in to pack a life into boxes. Hugh is confronted by myriad recollections and associations as he comes across objects from his childhood. He calls these eruptions “memory-bombs” and his project is, in part, an effort to create a map of the Hughes siblings’ childhood.

Forced to return to the house together for the first time, Hugh must face the broken relationship of Delyth and Derwyn who, for reasons never explained, have fallen out to such an extent that they can’t even share the same space during the most significant family traumas. Realising that his memory is inextricably bound up with those of his brother and sister, Hugh’s attempts to bring them together become the show’s emotional journey.

What we get is a patchwork of re-enacted conversations, film, audio and storytelling, a smattering of singsong and a bit of audience participation. Hugh and his siblings are masters at rescuing a maudlin moment with humour or puncturing our laughter with a reminder that nothing lasts forever. We feel privileged to share these recollections with the family. They draw their characters with broad brush strokes, happy to laugh at Derwyn’s ambitions to run not one but two burger vans, and Delwyth’s former drink problem. Hugh, however, remains an enigma throughout – he brushes past a flirtation with ballet dresses and make-up, and puts his brother and sister’s relationship centre-stage. We get a sense that by throwing open his creative process he is keeping his most intimate moments safe.

With its sense of intimacy and use of shaky home videos, I felt like I wanted to be curled up on Mam’s sofa with a cup of tea listening to these three joke and bicker and fool around. They are brilliantly supported on stage by Tom and Jerry, a technician and a musician who act as reminders that, however seductive nostalgia is, memories can only ever be framed, re-created and dramatised. Find the right frame and a sense of shared history doesn’t restrain and inhibit, but can heal and act as a launchpad into the future.

Hugh is reluctant to dwell on some of the darker implications of his theme. But this is theatre as a salve, and it cannot fail to draw you in. Its manifesto – that through sharing stories, laughter and group sing-along we can repair, resolve and move forwards – is a compelling one. So warm is Hugh’s vision for the future, whatever it may hold, that you will want to exchange hugs with your neighbour as the lights come down.

Stories from Invisible Town is at the Barbican Pit until 8December, and then on tour. Go to for more information.


Guy Jones

Guy Jones

Guy is a director and dramaturge who works with professional and non-professional actors and writers to create new work.

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Review: As the Flames Rose we Danced to the Sirens, the Sirens

Posted on 14 November 2012 by Jake Orr

Iara Solano Arana stands in a black dress and dons a blonde wig. Lit from the side she is bathed in a yellow hue as she presses her lips against the microphone that crackles and sparks at the contact. Oozing sexiness, Arana begins to describe women depicted in flickering black and white movies – the women of grainy old love songs – and in time she offers herself to us: “I’ll be whatever you want me to be”,  she says.  As the Flames Rose we Danced to the Sirens, the Sirens is both beautiful and tragic in its simplicity and Arana’s performance is endearing. Like a warm embrace, the piece envelops the audience, seducing them into the darkness of the performance space.

Sleepwalk Collective, which has grown in the past two years, has won a Total Theatre Award and is a BE Festival First Place and Best Performance winner, and its members are now performing in the Barbican Pit Theatre. The journey from fledgling company emerging from Rose Bruford College to award-winning and Barbican-performing has been watched closely by this reviewer having first seen their work in 2006. Some six years later and the captivating allure of their work still sees me wide-eyed and mouth ajar.

…the Sirens is a solo performance piece that looks at women in pop culture with all their fakery and false smiles, the sort of smiles that crack and fade with time. Arana, with microphone in hand, weaves a poetic but fractured commentary on the desires caught in black and white films: the desires to be kissed, loved by a man and loved by an audience. She caresses the microphone across her body and sips wine, enacting different visions of love and lust. She is a man trying to seduce a woman to bed, a solider drinking his last drink and a woman in hysterics. The interplay between the real and imagined worlds is engaging.

Sammy Metcalfe’s direction sees representations of women in their most helpless states, being tied up and abandoned on train tracks, for instance, with no hero to rescue the damsel in distress. It’s in the mocking presentation – the toy train set that doesn’t crush the women but drives into her mouth; the magician’s assistant forced to cut her own body using a tiny saw – that makes …the Sirens both comedic and tragic. Desperate to become part of the projection of black and white film, Arana covers herself in powder and dances until the characters form on her body, but she’ll never be part of the grainy footage. She is a woman destined to be in the present tense: the here, not the then.

In the darkness of the Barbican Pit Theatre Sleepwalk Collective’s compelling storytelling, together with original music by Esme Squalor which underscores the piece, makes for a captivating show. Sleepwalk Collective brings something tangible and thrilling to the London stage.

As the Flames Rose we Danced to the Sirens, the Sirens is playing at the Barbican Pit Theatre until 17 November. For more information and tickets, see the Barbican Theatre website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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