Roundhouse, London – until 17 January 2019
There is no denying the powerful choreography is mesmerising to watch, yet Until the Lions lacks a strong plot narrative.
Inspired by the South Asian tale of Amba (or Shikhandi as she transforms to), which was reimagined in Karthika Nair’s Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, Akram Khan powerfully reimagines this story to offer an intriguing interpretation of this tragic story.
Unfortunately, while the dancing is consistently spirited and intense to watch throughout, the story seems to be somewhat lost – with this particular audience member having to constantly check the programme to keep up with what is happening – despite the passion with which it is delivered. This lack of clarity in Khan and dramaturg Ruth Little’s narrative can then in turn make it difficult to fully appreciate the choreography.
It is a shame as dancers Ching-Ying Chien, Joy Alpuerto Ritter and Khan deliver highly passionate but beautifully fluid performances that keep the audience’s attention throughout. The way in which Chien and Ritter in particular manoeuvre and use their bodies is incredible to witness that it is no wonder that the audience were on their feet by the end. Through every movement you get a real sense of the characters and their emotions at particular moments to great effect.
Visually, Until the Lions offers many beautiful moments that complement the choreography particularly well. The final moments after the final confrontation between Shikakhandi and Bheeshma are particularly beautiful and a memorable part of the show – being gorgeously and effectively highlighted by Michael Hull’s lighting design and Tim Yip’s impressively creative set design in the round. Being performed in the round can hinder some moments of the audience’s understanding of what is happening – but it does allow the audience to really absorb the choreography.
Throughout, the music by Vincenzo Lamagna is wonderfully rich and varied – proving to be a real highlight of the show, complementing Khan’s choreography and the sense of drama it possesses perfectly. It is all performed with great gusto and confidence by the musicians Sohini Alam, Joseph Ashwin, David Azurza and Yaron Engler.
All in all, for me, this was a bit of a mixed bag experience – powerful choreography and music but just lacking in a strong enough narrative to make it a truly pleasurable evening.