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Song of the City at Southwark Playhouse

Fiona Doyle

Inspired by the music, art and poetry of one of India’s greatest literary figures Rabindranath Tagore, Song of the City was developed with an underground space in mind and works in tandem with the evocative Vault space at Southwark Playhouse.

Choreographer Ash Mukherjee combines neo classical ballet with Bharatanatyam Indian dance to create a provocative piece that strives to explore the duality of light and dark, self and other, east and west.

This exploration materialises as three characters – Muse, Artist and Man – all attempting to find harmony with each other and with the environment they exist within. Mukherjee’s choreography is ambitious and edgy. Some of the strongest and most effective moments occur when intricate and detailed movement patterns are executed over and over, reminiscent perhaps of the repetition structuring device often used by the late Pina Bausch. The dancers work very well together and Kamala Devam is particularly focused and engaging in her role as Muse.

All three performers are supported by thoughtful set, lighting and sound designs. Filmmaker William Huntley has used a complicated multiple screen system to project his urban landscape images while Arun Ghosh, a British-Bengali clarinettist, has composed an impressive musical score with haunting vocals by singer Sohini Alam. And Bill Deverson’s lighting design is thoughtful as well as aesthetically pleasing.

It has to be said that the unique and eerie Vault space at Southwark Playhouse lends itself extremely well to Song of the City and you are left wondering how the production might change when it performs at various other venues on a UK tour later this year. Nevertheless, Akademi’s current dance production is a visually striking, multimedia affair where classical meets contemporary in more ways than one.

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