Loosely inspired by Moby-Dick, the novel written in 1851 by American author Henry Melville, Leviathan is the most recent production from James Wilton Dance. Featuring a cast of seven and powered by an electro-rock soundtrack by Lunatic Soul, the production follows Ahab, a ship captain determined to capture the white whale at any cost.
Leviathan is split into seven chapters, each one providing a separate focus and insight. Human characters grow and become familiar, and cetacean mammals submerge themselves within the depths of the stage. Moral and emotional states are tested by the company, marking their examination of the current relationship between mankind and nature – a selfishness without repair.
A woman in white exhales water explosively. She is what they crave. Mist and vapour cling to her body as she bends, her spine swelling like waves lapping the prow of a ship. The Captain and his crew emerge, evolving from Neanderthals, their movements primal and animalistic. Caught in fight and flight, the sailors submit, using each-other through Wilton’s trademark movement style. The males engage in fearsome partner-work laced with capoeira and martial arts, demonstrating admirable athletic ability. The character of the whale is more delicate, but no less powerful, and the fluid choreography is bewitching.
Lunatic Soul’s soundscape is beautiful, and quickly becomes tied to the level of audience engagement. The beat catches and reels the spectator in, and each track works differently to establish the climate of its chapter. The company have worked well to communicate the story of Moby-Dick, and physical and emotional conflicts are articulated well throughout. However, despite the obvious athleticism required to execute this level of synchronisation and flexibility, sequences were repetitive and lost their poignancy as the performance endured. In addition, the majority of the male members of the ensemble were extremely heavy footed, which made most scenes seem ungainly.
This is a shame as Leviathan is a handsome piece of contemporary dance, and demonstrates a creativity and physical skill that is superior even to classical companies. The end result falls somewhere between the average and the sublime, and needs only minor refinement to transport it firmly into the latter.
Leviathan is playing at Dance Base until August 13. For more information and tickets, see www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/leviathan