Alain Platel les ballets C de la B
Nicht Schlafen
Sadlers Wells Theatre

Julia Pascal


Alain Platel’s Nicht Schlafen is a major work that maddens some and delights many.  I found it to be exciting and packed with stimulating aesthetic, intellectual and artistic choices.

The theme of the work is death, destruction and lust but Platel’s gift is to frame this within a sense of playful dance theatre that is always surprising.  He has created a company of eight men and one woman and the dancers are of such an exceptional quality and individuality that they take the breath away.

The ballet is epic in its ambition.  Platel uses Steven Prengels’ eclectic mixed score, which includes parts of Mahler’s Symphony Number Three in D Minor intercut with Boule Mpanya and Russell Tshiebuya’s polyphonic chants.  There are the sounds of cowbells and herding.  The vocabulary created by Platel is from a diversity of cultures.  Dancers sometimes speak though you can’t always hear them.  There is a collective exploration that the audience shares and the effect is strange and haunting.

Platel centres his dramatic scenography with Berlinde de Bruyckere’s disturbing structure of three dead horses which gives a Goya-like vision focus to the anarchy of his vision.

There are some longeurs, particularly when Platel shows us men fighting.  He drags this section out so that the impulse seems overplayed.  This is because the choreography here is naturalistic and Platel’s overall style tends to stretch his dancers’ skills to a new level.  Therefore fight-representation in dance seems to belong to another genre.  Where the work is outstanding is when it overturns expectation, where it plays with the individuality of each dancer’s ethnic identity and where the male (and this is a very male-dominated work) comes out to the audience to flirt, lampoon and challenge.

It is impossible to pick out individual dancers as each one here has a specific brilliance that breaks the fourth wall and reaches straight out to the audience.  Platel’s creativity is outstanding and his work is most satisfying.

Julia Pascal © 2017.