Reading with Bach at Clapham Omnibus
Reading is an utterly immersive experience. As we enter different fictional worlds we connect with characters, share in their emotions and let words beguile us and transfix our imaginations until mere marks on a page become reality. Reading with Bach uses the charms of language and the physical act of turning the pages of a book to explore the effects that reading has on our imagination as fantasy and reality collide.
Director and choreographer Lizzi Kew Ross noted the personal touch we each bring to what we read using the cast’s favourite novels as inspiration for the show’s movement. Using interpretive dance accompanied by a selection of Bach’s solo violin works arranged by Ruth Elder, Ross and the cast use movement in order to portray the tumultuous emotions we experience when reading.
As inviting as this idea is, in reality it fails to come across on stage. Much of the choreography is poorly executed, awkward and clumsy. There are moments, such as the enactment of Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q89, where the idea of fiction merging with reality in our dreams really comes to life as fictional characters physically collide with the reader in brisk, fluid movements. Yet for the most part any messages about the state of reading are masked beneath aimless dancing and a disengaged cast. Piles of books litter the stage, evoking the idea that our lives are consumed by stories, yet these props fail to add impact instead leading to rather stilted scenes where the cast build a path from books, walking across it in lumbering steps.
Played by two violinists, Bach’s music – including the D minor Gigue and Chaconne from Partita No 2 – is the greatest aspect of the performance. Graceful and ethereal the instruments soar above the dancers. The violinists’ interactions with the cast create an interesting dynamic to the performance, yet even this strays into clumsiness as a cast member lifts one violinist and awkwardly spins her around while the other instrumentalist woodenly knocks over piles of books that are then hurriedly piled again by the cast.
The concept of Reading with Bach is intriguing, however its execution is muddled and little of the movement really serves to explain the original concept. Despite a dazzling score what fails Reading with Bach is lousy interpretation and poor delivery.
Reading with Bach tours various London libraries until 7th May 2014. For further information or to book visit here.