Down by the water’s edge (created by an image projected onto the stage) we meet a gregarious group of friends full of personality, humour and joy. Dressed in costumes that nod to the classic Giselle, with hints of colonialism in beige trousers and skirts and white shirts and blouses. This is the traditional ‘village’ opening scene of the original Giselle ballet, but Masilo’s infusion of contemporary dance with deeply African rooted movements being fired and blended in rapid succession creates a distinct and absorbing world where the dancers hola, shrill and yell as they swirl their hips and stomp their feet.
Masilo pours so much into her characters and choreography; it’s complex, with intricate repetitive hand movements, flailing arms, deep grounded foot work, creating a combination that is quite mesmerising. Masilo (who performs Giselle) is an accomplished and award-winning choreographer, dancer and rightly the spearhead of her own company of talented dancers who makes this retelling of Giselle unique and engaging.
What is especially interesting was Masilo’s treatment of Giselle as she learns of her Prince’s betrayal. Although the victim in this story, it is Giselle who is humiliated, taunted by the crowd, she’s striped of her clothes and emotionally and physically victimised. She’s cast aside by her friends and her drunken mother (a stand out performance by Sinazo Bokolo). This brutal scene speaks of #MeToo, and reveals the truth about how women are punished, blamed and shamed for falling victim to men, who are often men they love and trust.
But in death Giselle seeks her revenge under the glare of the rageful and violent Queen of the Wilis, whose power is felt across the theatre, as she welds her whip and performs with an immortal aggression to the building drums beats surrounded by her blood red adorned Wilis. A powerful performance by Llewellyn Mnguni as Myrtha.
And there is something very satisfying about seeing Albrecht held to account and whipped to death by Giselle, who literally steps over his body in vengeful triumph. Definitely worth witnessing!
Reviewed at Sadler’s Wells on 4th of September