Rambert’s most recent Mixed Bill titled The Castaways once again highlights the obvious – its dancers and programming together make it one of the most prolific companies in contemporary dance. From a stylised, film noir inspired first act, a Darwinian adventure with a comic twist to a fantastically over-the-top, lost-at-sea finale – the line-up is as mixed a bag as it gets, keeping the dance team of 22 assuredly on their toes.
Since his exit from the Scottish Ballet, Ashley Page has remained quiet, raising the curiosity of many as to what might be next. So when the curtains open revealing a dark and murky set with two men pulling something from the confines of a basement, expectations of thrills arise. Subterrain, the name of his segment, continues to thrive with unsettling, droning beats from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Aphex Twin, yet the intrigue never amalgamates into anything apart from wafts of smoke, lingering shadows and sets of dancers duetting around stage with the occasional intricate lift and sensuous entanglement of skin-upon-skin.
Rambert’s very own Mark Baldwin takes the next stab at cajoling the audience with The Comedy of Change. Tightly clad dancers wearing white and black unitards make their way out of three feet-high pods, miming sharp bird-like movements. A foil-covered object looking similar to a giant-sized egg sits centre stage, while the evolution of species unfolds around it. What could be a very dull interpretation of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species turns out to be a surprisingly amusing set with the performers working in tight lines with strong, synchronised movements.
Impressing most of all is Los Angeles based Barak Marshall’s wildly entertaining The Castaways – a show that breathes life into each of the colourfully dressed dancers by allowing them to shout, speak and sometimes sing. Working closely with music arranger, Robert Millet, Marshall’s use of Balkan folk, Yiddish pop and even “Soviet pomp” gives it a foot-stomping, clap-your-hands kind of energy, making it feel as if the show has been relocated to Broadway.
The ex-Batsheva choreographer and son of acclaimed dancer Margalit Oved, while never professionally trained, creates big, bold movement sequences that allow each of the 12 souls trapped in a no man’s land to thoroughly express their frustrations. Pushing both story and aesthetics is something Marshall insists upon, and it works here, down to the development of strong characters, such as the feisty Latin lovers, and the mysterious voice box that spits out items to the stranded.
It's difficult to believe the same dance troupe performs in each of the three segments – highlighting both their diversity and capability. What it also shows is fresh material and direction can bring a revitalised verve to not only the performers but the audience as well. This seems the case, making Marshall’s piece appear like a whoosh of vivacity, something that is needed more often in the contemporary dance world. For this alone, the mixed bill is not to be missed.
The Castaways is at Sadlers Wells until Saturday 26 October at 7.30pm. Tickets £22-£38. Thursday has a matinee show at 1.30pm as does Saturday at 2.30pm, tickets £12-£20. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
For a sneak peak at Barak Marshall's segment - watch an exclusive video of the rehearsals.