Voices of the Amazon by Sisters Grimm – Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 8th July
Review by Soraya Scrivener
Following their Grammy Award nominated production Inala, Sisters Grimm return to Sadler’s Wells this week with their new dance musical Voices of the Amazon. Inspired by indigenous myth, it tells the tale of a mermaid whose search to find a cure for her sister takes her on a journey deep into the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Full of passion and loyalty, it delights the audience with Helen Pickett’s fusion of contemporary, ballet and capoeira. What is capoeira I hear you say? It is a Brazilian martial art developed in the 16th Century combining elements of dance, acrobatics and music.
The Brazilian dramatic musical score by composer Ella Spira and co-writers is enriched with sound effects taken from the Amazon. Spira is co-producer with director Pietra Mello-Pittman, former Royal Ballet dancer. The different genres are performed by 16 dancers, singers and musicians from diverse backgrounds. Oh, and did I mention Jeremy Irons narrates?
Opening with the two mermaids high in aerial drapes was enchanting, though their decent was a little awkward. From the start the strong percussive rhythms create the intensity that oozes from every performer. Musical director and pianist, Rob Barron lead the fantastic musicians, Adam Kovacs and Matthew West (percussionists) with violist Tina Jacobs and cellist Lucinda Skinner. Kay Elizabeth shows off her powerful voice throughout, singing in English but mostly Portuguese, the language of the Amazon. This small cast produce powerful harmonies creating such a captivating atmosphere.
After reading the extensive synopsis in the impressive programme I am not sure the narration, however enjoyable was really that necessary and perhaps a little patronising to the accomplished performers who conveyed the story so well. I did however miss a key plot turn when the healing plant was swapped for poison.
My favourite moment was when three men lifted Beleza as she swam to the surface. Rachel Maybank is perfectly cast as Beleza and has a touching duet with dying sister Flavia performed by Royal Ballet dancer Nathalie Harrison. Of course, Harrison could not just be used at the beginning and end of the show so returns quickly doubling as another character. This should have been less obvious with the use of costume and wigs but could have been disguised far more easily by removing her pointe shoes which I would have abandoned altogether to be honest.
I particularly enjoyed the three monkeys taunting and playing with Beleza when she first reached the sunlit forest. A special mention must go to Leilane Telles who was not a lead but an entrancing performer. I was drawn to her facial expressions and loved the way she moved as a racoon.
Kaue Ribeiro impresses as Yano, the indigenous man who is saved from the snake woman by Beleza. Maybank and Ribeiro dance a mesmerising duet showing their passionate connection. The choreography is truly beautiful, so creative and fluid.
Opening Act 2 Ribeiro shines in his solo whilst the tribe produce some beautiful rich harmony that gave me goose bumps. Um Nova Dia (A New Day) was one of my favourite songs partly due to it having more English with words such as ‘feel the sun in every one of us, to be as one.’ Maybank and Ribeiro’s moving farewell duet was a particularly stunning piece.
At an hour and forty minutes including an interval it was refreshing to not be wishing away yet another solo. A little underwhelmed by the costumes it didn’t quite transport me to the Amazon, but this piece was certainly full of enjoyable, inventive choreography, animated performers and spellbinding music.
Tickets are still available for a great evening at Sadler’s Wells until Saturday the 8th of July. It’s a shame their next venue is so far away in Singapore.