REVIEW: Life is a Dream (Curve Leicester) ★★★

Rambert’s latest contemporary dance piece, Life is a Dream, visits Curve this week.

Based on the play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca and choreographed by Olivier Award winning Kim Brandstrup, Life is a Dream tells the story of a director who has nodded off to sleep who dreams vivid images from the rehearsal as they come alive all around him.

Although seemingly comprehensible and intelligible during our slumber, dreams have a tendency to slip away from us suddenly upon our waking. We try and translate our unconscious experiences to our family and friends who try and grasp the meaning with us but ultimately can’t appreciate the dream as much as we do because they weren’t able to witness it first-hand. Imagine trying to understand someone’s obscure dream, as they spend no less than 1hr15 trying to relive it to you. Add in the backdrop of a garishly discordant score that rarely lets up in its dissonance and that is a little bit like watching this piece.

It has a great concept and having seen other fantastic dance pieces centred around dreams, it should definitely be possible to execute. However, something gets lost in translation as I’m not sure I would have realised the dance was about a snoozing director midway through a rehearsal, if I hadn’t first read it.

Having said that, there are definitely elements to the production that are really impressive. The stage presence of the dancers is phenomenal and each one striking and captivating. Although it goes without saying that the dancing was flawless, as you’d expect nothing less from this level, they really do move in ways that barely seems like it would be possible for the average human.

Secondly, the set is beautiful and the production as a whole is mesmerising and aesthetically beautiful. The use of lighting is intricate and subtle, and the projections used throughout the production are beautiful and impactful and really add to how visually stunning the whole production is.

However, the aforementioned constant dissonance of the score made it difficult to enjoy any of that. It would have been understandable had it been gradually building up throughout the production and had the dream been a nightmare. There was no build, though, and it felt constant. By the end of the production I felt suffocated and stressed, despite having gone in feeling the opposite.

Reviewed by Rosie Bambury
Photo: Johan Persson


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