28 March 2017 | 10 °C

Bayadère - The Ninth Life Fails To Live Up To Expectations

Laura Dodge
By Laura Dodge Last edited 24 months ago
Bayadère - The Ninth Life Fails To Live Up To Expectations ★★☆☆☆ 2

Photo: Bill Cooper (c) ROH 2015

Londonist Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Shobana Jeyasingh's Bayadère - The Ninth Life attempts to reinvent Marius Petipa's 1877 classical ballet, but everything gets lost amongst a chaotic array of conflicting concepts.

The performance commences with a single dancer (Sooraj Subramaniam) onstage, typing into his iPod, as the words and images appear on a screen behind. He’s just seen the original Bayadère ballet and writes about his experiences for ‘Jas Gupta’s Nights Out’ blog, as other performers appear as the main characters and storyline. “What an experience for an Indian”, he enthuses. “The plot is pure Bollywood… LOL.”

It’s a fun and very accessible introduction to La Bayadère (which literally means ‘the temple dancer’) but as eight cast members form a Jeyasingh-reimagined version of the Act III ‘Kingdom of the Shades’, ideas quickly become confused. With Subramaniam now wearing traditional costume, a voiceover describes 1838 Paris and the first visit of five “mysterious” Indian temple dancers to Europe. It’s as if the blogger (now transformed into a bayadère himself) is having a surreal dream.

To a backdrop of Gabriel Prokofiev’s sinister and other-worldly music, dancers walk around, posing and groping the central figure, while the voiceover’s words become increasingly disjointed (from “latticed pagodas” to “frisky like a goat”). There are occasional echoes of the earlier ballet characters, but movement feels mostly abstract and it's unclear what Jeyasingh is trying to say.

After the voiceover describes the supposed suicide of one of the 1838 temple dancers, Subramaniam returns to his modern-day clothing and films the other dancers as they perform a final sequence. Music varies from sounds reminiscent of an old-fashioned carousel, to repeated tapping, and Jeyasingh’s energetic choreography, though well performed, lacks clarity and context.

Bayadère - The Ninth Life is at the Linbury Studio Theatre until 28 March. It’s sold out but returns may be available from the Royal Opera House website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review the show.

Last Updated 27 March 2015