Friday, 3 December 2021

REVIEW: XENOS by the Akram Khan Company at Sadler's Wells

Over 20 years ago, The Akram Khan Company began building their reputation as one of the most respected companies in the world. Khan’s contribution to the arts is internationally recognised; most notably when he choreographed a section of the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in 2012.

Written by Jordan Tannahill and adapted by Ruth Little, Xenos is Khan’s final solo performance. It is a tribute to the millions of Indian soldiers who fought in WW1. As you enter the auditorium and take your seat, a percussionist and vocalist are performing cross-legged onstage. The lights are warm and the scene peaceful, before Khan stumbles onto the stage and begins to perform. His movements are inspired by the Indian classical dance form, Kathak, blended with contemporary dance. He is fascinating to watch; his precise, agitated movements are incredibly expressive and entirely captivating. 

Mirella Weingarten’s sloping set slides away into the darkness; the chairs, cushions and other belongings dragged away, seemingly like an optical illusion as the rug is pulled out from under Khan’s feet. Five musicians appear as if hovering in the sky and glowing in the horizon. The vocalists, double bass, violin and saxophone create haunting music that reverberates in your body.

After his normal life has slipped away, Khan tumbles down the red glowing slope and into the warzone. It is a bleak, dirty setting with a large gramophone amplifying the names of those who have lost their lives. The use of spoken word and sound is powerful and the most effective use I have seen before in dance, “I’ve killed and been killed, and again I’ve killed.” He uses ropes to create the shapes of weapons, then becomes tangled in them as they snake around his body. Khan’s body has the ability to create the most tortured and internalised movements that is uncomfortable to watch.

Xenos is poignant and textured; Khan’s performance is all-encompassing in its depth. You can almost feel the dirt on his skin, the stones under his feet and the ropes bound around his body. He is certainly one of the greatest choreographers of our time, I would highly recommend going to see one of the performances in the Carnival of Shadows.

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Stalls H32 | Price of Ticket: £55
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