Draw From Within

Wim Vandekeybus
Rambert
Theatre Royal Plymouth

Draw From Within Credit: Rambert
Draw From Within Credit: Rambert

I’m not sure if it is year or so away from the theatre or not but, to be brutally honest, I have no idea what Rambert’s Draw From Within is about. Just couldn’t grasp a narrative—if indeed there was one. Perhaps it is just a bewildering piece for bewildering times.

The now-touring stage performance is a reworking of Britain’s oldest dance company’s ground-breaking lockdown live-stream offering filmed in its South Bank building where the movement from one room to another—from rooftop to loading bay—may have brought more sense to what may be a montage of theatrical vignettes of modern life.

The collaboration with double Bessie-winner, choreographer and director Wim Vandekeybus drew also on his pedigree film-making and photography for the digital display while his iconic physicality is showcased throughout with bursts of frenetic movement, gymnastics and athleticism interspersed with quiet and elegant balletic moments.

Loud and brash, silent and meandering, high-octane and languid: it’s all packed into some 70 uninterrupted, masked minutes of switching mood and pace.

Two brightly-dressed figures gaily popping and locking and quoting Ted Hughes’s poetry about nothingness quickly give way to the passing of a flame among crouched primal nobodies dressed in beige rags, seemingly shining weak light on a seedy, unwell nothingness with the down-and-outs following the smoky tendrils in writhing masses.

Tall screens on wheels turn and expose squirming groups while the brown paper backdrop (the scenic flats are on loan from Vandekeybus’s own company Ultima Vez) flaps and settles.

Cutting through the morass, a slinkily-dressed Naya Lovell confidently entices and flirts until the walls give way, plunging her into isolation, unable to find a way through ropes pulled taut across the stage in sharp, claustrophobic angles.

Images—an octopus, a tree, a room, a pregnant woman—are roughly painted onto the backdrop with artists bursting through the walls to become part of their creations while dancers hang on hooks suspended above the ground or jitter and convulse in immensely physical chaos.

Animated microphone-clutching presenter (a lithe Daniel Davidson) provides excitable commentary on revelling dancers and gives a blow-by-blow account of a labouring woman (Aishwarya Raut with an upside-down Max Day wrapped around her body) and her precocious child who is driving cars within moments of birth and gunning down dad soon after. A multilingual, old-fashioned switchboard is jammed with callers offering potential names for the tyrannical monster.

Swift glimpses of horror: knife wielding women, bloodstained Marigolds and homicidal maniacs wrapped in clingfilm and a drawn-out, suspense-laden hospital scene nightmare with a perplexed but elegant Kym Sojourna awaiting her fate on a medical trolley juxtapose with moments of human warmth with some beautifully executed and synchronised pas de deux.

Action swerves and meanders through scene after scene with the diverse soundtrack featuring Marc Ribot’s "AIR" and "BLOOD", excerpts from Daan’s "Menske", Penny and the Quarters performing “You And Me” and “I Cried a Tear"; Ivo Papasov’s “Dance of the Falcon’’, Parghel’s “Doina Olt” and Gherghina’s “Doina De Pe Valea Cernei’"

Much to ponder and question but, regardless of context, Rambert’s 14 dancers are superb.

And so very good to be back in live theatre.

Slick and quick temperature taking, track and trace and hand sanitiser on tap, cast list online and free ice-cream on exit—really good to have live theatre back.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell