Review: in-i @ Lyttleton, National Theatre

By Lindsey Last edited 188 months ago

Last Updated 21 September 2008

Review: in-i @ Lyttleton, National Theatre

Akram Khan is a choreographer and dancer renowned for his audacious collaborations. Zero Degrees in 2005 explored cultural identities in a stark white box at Sadlers Wells. Sacred Monsters had ballerina Sylvie Guillem singing on stage and dwarfing Khan in the most elegant way possible. This foray with actress Juliet Binoche was risk filled from the start - their mission was to dare, to push their personal boundaries and create across their comfort zones. This they have done, although the result is mixed.

The theme is love but whilst the programme enumerates the 14 words the Greeks used for love, what's played out in the work are familiar scenarios of lust and troubled couplings; the romantic idealism of the childhood crush, the love affair that founders when a partner continually pees on the seat, forbidden love of the Muslim boy for the non-Muslim girl and the destructive jealousy of a passionate relationship.

Truly impressively, Binoche has learnt to dance over the past year whilst Khan has been taking acting lessons. At the outset, in a whirling duet, she pulls it off. But the bits that work best are those where Binoche is acting and Khan is dancing. Indeed, both are exceptional in their element, luminous against Anish Kapoor's lushly lit back wall which provides support and acts as a surprisingly effective prop throughout.

The show runs for just over an hour although some of the monologues exceed comfortable running time as some of the dance sequences suffer from the constraint of Binoche's limited dance training - Khan can't choreograph beyond her.

Stand out moments pepper the work; Khan's juddering, solo emotional breakdown that builds so compellingly and Binoche, pinned against the back wall like a broken doll as she tells the story of her violent relationship breakdown.

We wanted so much to love in-i, given the star quality and the enormous potential inherent in this project but we came away feeling untouched and unconvinced, despite the immense bravery involved in getting it to the stage.

in-i runs at the Lyttleton, National Theatre until 20 October and tickets are available online.