Simple – 17 monks, 1 Westerner and a boy plus some 20 boxes on an empty stage
Stunning – dynamic Kung Fu-inspired movement and sculpture/installation art working in synchronicity.
Sutra, a Sadler’s Wells production, is director and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s vision. Meaning a rope or thread that holds things together, I suspect that the child is just that.
The nine-year-old unnamed lad makes a tremendous debut toying with the Western onlooker (Ali Thabet), linking the pieces with cat-like movement, copying the monks and adding light relief to the intensity.
Sculptor Antony Gormley’s wooden boxes (and a single steel one) are moved about the stage in their own ballet, creating shapes as diverse as stacked shelving, fortress, toppling dominoes, monoliths and flowers.
In, on and around the boxes, the Shaolin Temple monks appear, disappear, leap, fight and stand guard (but how did they change clothing? Where did it go?) while the Western onlooker – adept at comic and intense exploration of the space around him - becomes increasingly absorbed into the mesmerizing ritualistic dance.
Fading in and out visually behind a gauzy screen the violin, cello, piano and percussion players perform pianist Szymon Brzoska’s score completing the perfect harmony.