Dance City, Newcastle
Dance City’s first show this season is a world première by hip hop dance theatre company Spoken Movement, led by Kwame Asafo-Adjei, who also choreographed and performs in Family Honour.
Family Honour follows a young girl, danced by Catrina Nisbett, who, bound by the demands of tradition, religion and family, confronts her past rebellion against these pressures. Originally a duet, this is now a trio and is a full hour of intense, intelligent and compelling dance, movement and text sited in a simple and extremely effective set of two freestanding windows, a table and some props.
The ‘story’ is more a reflection and exploration of family relationships from the daughter’s perspective, her struggle to understand her father, memories of her mother, her father’s grief over her mother’s death, the role of religion and the central importance of mealtimes and food. The set is in constant motion, part of the choreography, and the movement is intense and bound, heightening the sense of familial conflict.
There’s a film-like use of stop / start and reverse and the fantastic fluid use of props is beautifully and inventively incorporated. As characters shift and change, I was sometimes unsure who was who, grandparents, parents, even a lover, but ultimately it didn’t matter as the conflicts and dynamics of family relationships was so clear. The final duet, which starts with a poetic, performance text from the daughter, is a poignant but only partial resolution. The journey is clearly not over!
There were so many gripping moments and images, with one particular image of the young man, maybe the father, falling slowly backwards, suspended or being pushed—the audience was free to interpret.
A well-designed, atmospheric sound design by Hobbit gave depth, tension and excitement shifting in mood from contemporary to more traditional music. Lighting by Adam Carne really added to the sense of changing spaces, environments, time and moods and the deceptively simple room-like set within which the table and chairs were moved by the dancers, metamorphosed often and rapidly. Benji Reid was the dramaturg.
The audience were as engaged and enthusiastic as the marvellous performers and the Q and A afterwards was lively and informative. It would have been helpful with a programme, and this unfortunately has happened a few times at Dance City.
This is Spoken Movement’s first visit to Newcastle upon Tyne, having also been in residence for a week fine tuning the production and teaching; let’s hope it’s not their last!
It is heartening and much needed that Dance City is co-producing with organisations as prestigious as Sadler’s Wells and Theater Rotterdam. Let’s have more.
Further performances are at Sadlers Wells September 14 and 15, Contact Theatre Manchester September 19, Riley Theatre Leeds October 1 and Maas Theatre Rotterdam in December.
Reviewer: Dora Frankel