Venue: The Lowry (Studio)
Where: Salford

In describing their work as “original and issue based”, Fallen Angels Dance Theatre hit the nail squarely on the head.  

Supported by a short performance from the company’s community outreach group, Chapter One: Battle for the Soul is a contemporary dance piece addressing drug and alcohol addiction, using real life testimonies as inspiration. 

Led by artistic director Paul Bayes Kicher (ex Birmingham Royal Ballet), Chapter One is, suitably for its subject matter, filled with highs and lows. The professional dancers are great, executing exhilarating lifts with breath-taking accuracy and pace.

Themes of despair, fear and revelation are ominously ever-present courtesy of a well-chosen soundtrack and moody lighting design. The choreography effectively suggests a body that is gradually spiralling out of one’s own control. Importantly for a subject of this kind, it avoids feeling earnest or worthy, despite the odds.

The piece has its shortfalls though, as it feels over-long, taking too much time to build to its eventual climax. Also, a solo focusing on an alcoholic mother’s break-down seems clichéd with red lighting, an overwhelming Maria Callas soundtrack and baby’s screams: techniques straight from a somewhat outdated theatrical text-book.

That said, the ‘pre-show curtain raiser’ from Fallen Angels Performance Group is incredibly moving. Made up of young people and adults that have experienced addiction and alcoholism, the group perform a contemporary piece based on their own experiences.

The beauty and power of this short work is not down to its theatricality or technical perfection, but to the willingness of the participants to openly share with an audience something so personal. Just four months out of prison, one man stands in spotlight and simply talks to us about his 11 year battle with addiction. The audience are as awestruck as he is.

An accompanying film charts the group’s growing feelings of empowerment throughout the workshop and rehearsal process. Kicher’s rationale for Fallen Angels is “to help and engage people through dance...it’s all about seeing how we can inspire, enhance and make a difference to people’s lives”. On this count, Kicher can rest easy as this outreach piece is sensitive and genuinely engaging for both the surprised participants and the privileged audience.

- Sara Cocker