A Thousand Faces
A Thousand Faces
Amina Khayyam Dance Company
8 March 2017
Brunel University Theatre
Reviewed by Anna Kuppuswamy
This production more than lived up to expectation. As the lights dimmed and the excited chatter in the audience faded, a man with his suitcase made his entrance. The powerful and emotional rollercoaster of A Thousand Faces began, and it was a work that took us from the height of joy to the depths of human depravity.
The basic plot was simple and told what is, sadly, an all-too-common story. It starts with a man being reminded of a past relationship when he comes across some possessions belonging to the woman he once loved. These trigger memories of their past lives. The narrative follows their past lives from the time before they met when each had been oblivious to the other, happily going about their lives, until one day they meet. A happy courtship and union follow, but this slowly turns sour and leads to violence that ruins both lives.
Amina’s expert choreographic skills were evident in her superb blending of movement, light, theatre, music and silences. The use of pure kathak sequences with strong motifs that repeated all through the evening, each time exuding a different energy, was a brilliant technique – it highlighted how emotion makes movement, but it was also a clever way of keeping the piece together. When the friend playfully stops the protagonist, a carefree Amina dodges her; but the same movement sequence later in the narrative takes on a more painful form, characterising internal turmoil. Having a friend all through the narrative was also reminiscent of the classical origins of the choreographer: in classical Indian dance, a friend is often the most important character, a constant, depicting the voice of reason – very much like the friend in Amina’s A Thousand Faces.
Blending classical Indian dance with physical theatre was a masterstroke, with both forms naturally complementing each other. Kalirai gave an inspired performance, bringing the evening alive, especially the sections where he interacts with Amina. The distance maintained between the two, except for brief moments of contact throughout the piece, created an additional dimension that conjured up a new character in the show, where the two are one! Having the singer under a spotlight with Amina’s face lit up and Jane Chan’s exquisite solo performance of Blue Velvet left an indelible mark on the audience. The floor-to-ceiling display of rag dolls as the backdrop to the end of the show was a poignant reminder of the all-too-common story of the abused woman.
Overall the piece was beautifully choreographed, flawlessly executed and left the audience breathless, if only as a result of the countless chakkars in true kathak style. However, the show would have benefited from dropping the repeated section of the abused woman in frenzy. The first performance of this intense section comes down on the audience like a ton of bricks while the repeat loses steam and dilutes the first experience.
On a day that started with messages about women achievers on International Women’s day, to end it by watching A Thousand Faces reminded one of the long road ahead of us all.
Thursday, March 16 @ 7:30 pm | Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, GU21 6GQ | Book here
Wednesday, March 22 @ 7:30 pm | The Hawth, Crawley RH10 6YZ | Book here