Lest We Forget at Sadler’s Wells
Commemorating the First World War, the remarkable collection of three dance pieces by the English National Ballet, Lest We Forget – directed by Tamara Rojo – is a moving, bold and pioneering tribute to the soldiers who fought and lost their lives and the women they left behind to support the war effort in munitions plants at home. Melancholic but inspiring, the brilliant performances palpitate with emotion and pain.
Liam Scarlett’s innovative No Man’s Land expresses the relationship between the combatants and their loved ones via poignant, fluid, swirling pas de deux to the music of Liszt – particularly touching in a duo between a widow and the ghost of her dead husband. The setting is a factory and a battlefield, as women in brown and men in blue mesh flawlessly, representing at first their painful separation from one another – with ballerinas’ silent screams – the imagined union and their homecoming reunion. Visibly changed by warfare, the ladies move in synchronicity in their factory as the men crawl along downstage trenches, their love, terror and anguish portrayed through gesture and countenance.
The thrilling, lively Second Breath by Russell Maliphant highlights the battle at the front with its despair, confusion, and desperation, emphasising the tragedy of armed conflict. Andy Cowton’s evocative, contemporary music and Michael Hulls’s beautiful lighting are essential elements. The latter sculpts the dancers as they rise and collapse, and are otherwise shrouded in semi-darkness. A recorded voice recites a passage from Dylan Thomas’s Do not go gentle into that good night and a recount of a never-ending bombardment – a striking accent on the devastation, harshness and misery of World War One.
Akram Khan’s extraordinary, mesmerising Dust takes the cruelty of war a step further into hell, and into the trenches, and here the performers are rising up, enraged. A solo male dancer writhes in a symbolic manifestation of the suffering of a soul in battle, while arms extend as if to convey strength and hope in togetherness. The women are now fighters in solidarity with the soldiers, and the choreography is clearly physically demanding. In a mythic setting, dust is everywhere and the ballerinas display their fists amid defiantly vigorous lunges.
Along with outstanding choreography, performances are superb. The three works in Lest We Forget stand on their own as distinctively compelling, while exceptionally complementing one another as a powerful symbiotic whole. This unique show takes your breath away.
Lest We Forget is at Sadler’s Wells from 20th until 29th September 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Lest We Forget here: