Culture Editor Hannah Brierley enjoys The Guild Musical Theatre Society's deliciously dark showcase of thrilling musical theatre numbersWritten by hannahbrierley on 23rd March 2018
REVIEW: #JeSuis at the Birmingham Hippodrome
Tatiana Zhelezniakova reviews the "explosive" dance piece, #JeSuis, that is currently running at The Birmingham Hippodrome.
Do you have plans today? Cancel them.
And go watch #JeSuis. Choreographer Aakash Odedra takes on some of the most current and sensitive issues faced by the world in an explosive dance piece, currently running at the Hippodrome. Maybe this isn’t the kind of thing you expect to find yourself at on a Friday night, but I promise you it should be.
The title is a shadow of the social media response following terrorist attacks in the West – such as the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag that emerged following the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. While these events are devastating, we never quite seem to get the social media response from mass casualty attacks in countries like Egypt, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Turkey. Have we heard too much about conflict in those areas? Are we too overloaded to take anymore in?
“the dancers gave everything to learn and express themselves
Absolutely not – and this production screams it out. The journey of this idea started in 2012, when Odedra performed in Istanbul and met Yasin Anar, “a boy who was repeating my dance, but better than me”. Odedra couldn’t stop thinking about this extraordinary dancer, and returned the following year to lead a free workshop, and to find Yasin. The other dancers present at the workshop equally impressed him with their passion, with the way they gave everything of themselves to learn and to express themselves. The workshop was meant to be merely a few hours. They danced for 15. And Odedra promised that should he ever lead his own company, these would be the people he would have there with him.
Since Istanbul, this piece has transformed and evolved from a juxtaposition of the worship of female goddesses and simultaneous subjugation of female humans, to a very Turkey-centric expression of oppression and suppression of freedom of speech, to the inclusion of the refugee crisis and personal stories from refugees in a camp in Greece. It seems almost incredible that I could now experience all this material sourced from so many countries during its European premiere in Birmingham, seemingly far away from these sentiments and conflicts, and yet so close to our own fears, hopes, humanity.
“the pure creativity of #JeSuis astounds at every turn
Beyond the themes of tantamount importance in our current political climate, the pure creativity of #JeSuis astounds at every turn. Going from suspense and stillness to a deluge of light, sound, movement, there isn’t a moment where your full attention isn’t on the stage. It felt like I hadn’t taken a breath in the entire hour of the performance. Though there were only 7 dancers, the entire stage was full; the combination of technique, energy and passion the dancers possess creates a hurricane of movement, leaves you on the edge of the seat. What comes across particularly is the implicit unity and trust of the ensemble; while the sections led by solo dancers are remarkable, the piece comes alive, hits you where it hurts, where it should hurt, when the company comes together. The technical aspects of the performance play with light and shadow, and the music, composed by Nicki Wells, intertwined with spoken tracks, creates the electric atmosphere to complete the piece.
I can’t claim to be a true expert in modern dance, and inevitably there were symbols and references that passed me by. Regardless, I was swept up by the interminable current of feeling, of the story that wasn’t told outright, and yet so clear in what it meant. This is more than a piece of dance and theatre – this is the kind of event that leaves you breathless, and so ready to do something. Aakash Odedra says he’s tired of Facebook debates. Hope isn’t a hashtag or a status. Hope is action. And this, exactly this, is what serves as that inspiration to take it.