The large grey walls which surround the performance area evoke the setting of a gallery immediately, but as Gormley’s set of 21 wooden boxes begin to be sculpted by the exceptional troupe of Shaolin monks the piece begins to become an ever changing landscape.
Expect the unexpected as the ensemble manipulate the boxes, into a series of stunning tableaux’s which they themselves you would expect the find in the Tate Modern. The visuals are striking in their execution, especially when merged with Szymon Brzoska’s score.
The music is very much its own driving force and is brilliant in its ability to attach emotion and depth to the shifting opulence of the choreography and setting. The score is a bouncy blend of rich chords and sharp, clunky piano.
It is extraordinary how one can watch the piece and know it is being wonderfully emotive without actually being able to put your finger on what the precise narrative of the section you are witnessing may be, a very rare instance in theatre.
Much of the exploration is derived from director and choreographer Sidi Labri Cherkaoui’s fascination with the Shaolin monks, their tradition, religion, and culture.
His inspiration is clearly displayed in the choreography as the physical skill of each individual is ever present during the performance; however, it is never exploited. This is clearly not just a demonstration of kung-fu or Shaolin strength but an intricately woven tapestry of their beliefs and the outcome in the form of their traditions.
The harmonious mixing pot of design, choreography and music plays a large part in the success of this production but it also has a unique characteristic which is mostly unidentifiable but sets the piece apart from many other examples of dance performance.
- Ben Wooldridge