THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 17 APRIL 2019 & TOUR
RUNNING TIME 1 HOUR
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 16 APRIL 2019
One of the joys of being a theatre reviewer is to take a glimpse at theatre art forms which are unusual, diverting and unexpected. My recent foray into theatre dance performances has shown me some flashes of complete brilliance which have as much impact as any play or musical production.
The Theatre Royal Plymouth is a part of the Dance Consortium which brings high quality dance to theatres across the UK – most often from international companies. The Mark Morris Dance Group is based in the USA and was formed by the eponymous creator in 1980. Morris’s background is in ballet choreography and this shines through in this work.
Pepperland is a 50th anniversary tribute to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album and taking some of the music from the album and some original compositions, Morris has created a most unusual, yet strangely hypnotic show which doesn’t always take itself too seriously.
The cast of dancers, clad in incredibly brightly coloured costumes, are introduced as some of the figures portrayed on the famous Peter Blake designed album cover – it is done with tongue firmly in cheek. A single vocalist, Clinton Curtis, gives voice to some of the numbers which are played out by an excellent 6-piece band. This is the first time I have witnessed a theremin in use – the unusual, but extraordinary sound just gives the whole performance an air of the unreal.
The choreography is precise, inventive and fluent. As mentioned, there is a heavy emphasis on ballet, but there are elements from many forms including jazz, musical theatre and unique contemporary styles. At one moment one or two dancers look as if they are doing their own thing and the next moment they are back with the full company – the timing is exquisite. Some of the songs – Penny Lane, for example, are played out to fit the words of the song, while others have a less easy narrative to follow.
With the music and dance working so closely together at no point is the technicality sacrificed for the musicality. At times there seems to be a degree of repetition which maybe outstayed its welcome, but, in the main, the show is never less than engrossing. Lasting just 60 minutes, it feels like the right length for the piece.
With a virtually bear stage, the lighting design by Nick Kolin is spot-on, creating a vivid colour palate which complements the costumes of Elizabeth Kurtzman.
Pepperland is unlikely to be for everyone, but the high-level of artistry in its creation and performance is undeniable. An entertaining and utterly unique theatrical treat.
DOMINGO ESTRADA JR.
CHOREOGRAPHY – MARK MORRIS
SET DESIGN – JOHAN HENCKENS
COSTUME DESIGN – ELIZABETH KURTZMAN
LIGHTING DESIGN – NICK KOLIN
ARRANGEMENTS & COMPOSITION – ETHAN IVERSON
VOCALS – CLINTON CURTIS
SOPRANO SAXOPHONE – BRIAN KROCK
TROMBONE – JACOB GARCHIK
THEREMIN – ROB SCHWIMMER
PIANO – ETHAN IVERSON
KEYBOARD – GEORGE SHEVTSOV
PERCUSSION – VINNIE SPERRAZZA