Mark Morris presented a retelling of a Middle Eastern love story ‘Layla and Majnun’ that puts the tantalising Azerbaijani music at the heart of the show.
The performance interestingly opened with a 15 minute or so Azerbaijani musical and vocal medley of four accomplished and passionate artists, seated in front of an enormous brightly coloured backdrop painted by the acclaimed Howard Hodgkin.
When the dancers finally arrived on stage, they were dressed in traditionally influenced long clothes, that saw the women confusingly in orange tie-dye dresses. And while the movement was influenced by the traditional story, it felt restrained and lacking in depth.
The combination of deeply traditional and moving Azerbaijani songs, the contemporary backdrop, lanterns scattered on the stage and the simple costumes, made for a disjointed visual narrative that just didn’t work.
With the musicians and singers placed centrally on the stage, the dancers were assigned to the periphery to simply act out the story as the words were projected on small TV screens facing the audience from the edge of the stage.
But what was most disappointing was the movement and dance elements that seemed overly simplified trying to reenact or accompany the love story. The choreography sadly did not showcase the dancers’ abilities, even as they performed with emotion and conviction.
It was not surprising to find that only half way through the show’s run, that there were many empty seats and not everyone stayed to the end of the 70 minute show that did not provide an interval and did not live up to expectations.
Reviewed at Sadler’s Wells on 15 November 2018.