Review: Tero Saarinen Dance Company in Next of Kin at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Soutbank Centre

Performance: 23-24 May 08
Reviewed by Lisa Haight - Wednesday 28 May 2008

Next of Kin opened with a shadow of Jarmo Saari, the composer and live musician. As he held a glass of water, walked in a circle and rubbed the glass’ rim, the magic of the water genie made an eerie, haunting sound as a projection of an old, Asian face lined with wrinkles flickered momentarily in a corner. Dancers dressed from head to toe in black entered the stage, projections of Saari’s demons coming to life.

The demons crawled and kicked and tugged at their darkness until the black fell away revealing ghost like creatures with white skin, dark eyes, a torrent of hair and old Victorian clothes. They looked deranged as they covered their eyes, extended their arms, crawled along the stage, wiggled their fingers, shook their bodies and hands, swept their very long hair across the stage and did disjointed, short, quick movements. It was like watching an old black and white horror film when a woman had her back to the curtain at the side of the stage, whilst a man was trying to pull her into the curtains and other hands appeared, from behind the curtains, grabbing at her face and body. Four floating old, wrinkled Asian heads moved across the stage tauntingly like spectres. One of the creepiest images, and my favourite, was of two women walking toward the white light at the back of the stage with intricately intertwined hair.

Next of Kin ended with Saari, and his red hair cascaded over his shoulders, walking ever so slowly carrying a tray of glasses of water to the front of the stage whereupon he started playing his unusual instrument with the futuristic sound. Thus, it ended where it began albeit with literally more on Saari’s plate.

I had mixed reactions to this piece. The production standards were remarkably high from the lighting to the wigs to the costumes to the props. The various instruments Jarmo Saari played live were not typical instruments one would see, or hear for that matter, and the sounds coming forth from them were enthralling. However, I felt let down by the repetitive choreography and one-dimensional horror theme. It was fascinating to watch initially, but then half way through it, the same movements and ideas kept repeating themselves. There was always various things happening simultaneously on the stage, so I was never bored, but as the beginning was so gripping, I was expecting a crescendo that never came.

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