Review: Xenos ****



Festival Theatre (Edinburgh International Festival)

August 16 to 18 only.

**** (4 Stars)

Akram Khan is a dancer of world wide renown. He expresses the many emotions available to the human body intensely through dance and movement of enormous skill.

This production is part of the 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions. Well over a million soldiers from the Indian sub-continent fought on behalf of their imperial masters in that war. Xenos means stranger or outsider. Here were outsiders who were relied upon.

In this show, presented by the Akram Khan Company, Khan dances to represent this million, Much of the experience of war is not of action, but of preparation, of supply lines, of fortifications and also of laying cables. Akram Khan here is seen laying cables, and hearing voices in the cables, including voices of those already dead. He scrambles about on Mirella Weingarten’s daring and seemingly precipitous set. He rolls and unrolls cable in lighting that reflects the need to work out of sunlight, and maybe the effects of the smoke of battle.

Occasional gunfire makes one wonder if Khan is still alive a several points. Jordan Tannahill’s script reflects at one point on the long rise of evolution, to Sapiens. For what? Khan dances the struggle of man to be himself, and the struggle to survive.

This is a deeply moving and compassionate piece, involving the audience deeply. The percussion and singing that preceded the show was greatly admired by the audience. During the show a number of musicians performed to great effect, except that some of the time an orchestral drone pretty much drowned out their efforts. This was not a time for raised voices, but the voice over was sufficiently gentle that it only needed one cough somewhere in the audience for things to be missed.

However, this was a memorable and brilliant performance by all concerned, and a further display of Akram Khan’s great talent.

Tony Challis