Review: Tree of Codes at Sadler’s Wells

Tree of Codes, now at Sadler’s Wells, pull together the creative prowess of choreographer Wayne McGregor, artist Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie XX, to create a dynamic production of movement, sound and light.

Tree of Codes is the cut-up book by Bruno Schulz, a Polish writer murdered by the Nazis, which forms the basis for a new collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, artist Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie XX. Now taking the stage at Sadler’s Well, Tree of Codes is an explosive and relentless alliance between the worlds of dance, music and art.

The production is an unfurling of choreography and staging. The theatre is thrust into complete darkness, until small lights appear attached to the dancers’ bodies. It looks as though stars are dancing on the stage. Gradually light is brought in, allowing the audience to see McGregor choreography, performed by members of the Paris Opera Ballet. It’s bold, progressive and imaginative conducting of the body. Reminiscent of Pina Bausch with hints of Hofesh Shechter, the movement is irreverent, erratic and unyielding.

Internationally acclaimed music-maker Jamie XX created a digital algorithm that ‘read’ the book, and his aural offering replicates the rhythm and structure of the sentences. It’s a powerful digital outpouring, with heightened synth and explorative sounds. Sometimes uncomfortable to the ear, sometimes uplifting to the heart, the soundtrack is an admirable feat of music.

What is most fascinating about this production is its use of mirrors, reflection and light. Throughout the performance, mirrors and two-way mirrors are lowered onto the stage, creating reflections of infinite dancers in perfect unison. The audience is forced to see themselves, while lights bouncing off the back mirror travel through the theatre, causing momentary blindness. Spinning filters in the walls give glimpses into another world, and just a progressively, take it away again.

When you bring together three of the leading names of their respective disciplines, you know the final production is going to push creative limits and deliver something truly exceptional. Tree of Codes is just that, and so much more.

Tree of Codes is at Sadler’s Wells until 11th March 2017.

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