Overflow at Sadler’s Wells
Sadler’s Wells is one of the first venues to reopen following the easing of lockdown restrictions. Choreographer Alexander Whitley’s Overflow is a hark back to days of fevered excitement, the audience together under darkness and dry ice once more. Created in 2019, but increasingly relevant, the premiere of this dramatic interdisciplinary kinetic piece is a bold, cinematic illusion.
The group of six dancers take centre stage, only their backs visible through sheer black fabric. Beautiful intricate masks by Ana Rajcevic were made using facial recognition technology, connecting with the core concept of Overflow. In dim lighting, initially the artists cannot be discerned, but this evolves as the performance develops. Music from Rival Consoles expertly weaves glitchy industrial synthesisers, creating a soundscape both futuristic and current, while strobe design, from Dutch creatives Children of the Light, emboldens each dancer’s movements. A suspended object manoeuvres almost imperceptibly, transforming the entire stage, changing colours and the narrative; combined with Guy Hoare’s lighting, the effect allows the piece to take on a dramatic edge in a clear display of innovation. One of the male dancers intertwines through prisms of light, almost tangible; the strobe searches for the dancers as they avoid its surveillance, occasionally in the background, innocently providing light, and at other moments a more menacing threat in the fore.
Whitley’s vision to create a piece that portrays the powers of big data and digital technology is embodied strikingly by the dancers. In the age of social media and newly evolved computer technologies, one is often inundated with an overflowing abundance of information. The choreography reflects Whitley’s creative concept, briefly slow and meditative, and elsewhere urgent, the performers pulling at themselves and their counterparts.
Presented in episodic form, highlight moments include Yu-Husien Wu’s dazzling solo delivery, evoking the turbulent past year. Another memorable section comes in the form of warm yellow light flickering in the strobe, reminiscent of sunlight reflecting on water, tempting and inviting. Continuing with feelings of relief that have come with reduced restrictions, the group embrace and hold hands – something the world is finally able to do again.
The choreography is cleverly detailed and illustrative of consummate experience, with complex dance sequences involving precise synchronicity followed by intricate individual elements. The lighting in Overflow is as much a part of it as the dancers and music, foreboding and watchful, then friendly and approachable, a character unto itself.
Overflow is at Sadler’s Wells from 21st May until 22nd May 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.