Two months ago in this four hundredth year since his death, choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker presented a version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It on the Sadler’s Wells stage. For its latest triple-bill at the same venue, Rambert Dance Company  invited Lucy Guerin to create a work based on Macbeth.

<i>Tomorrow</i> © Johan Persson
Tomorrow
© Johan Persson
Guerin, who co-directed a production of Macbeth at the Young Vic in 2015, focuses here on the themes of the play. One side of the stage in Tomorrow is peopled by figures in black who act out the events of the play. Ironically, given the title, these are in reverse order. The other side of the stage shows dancers moving about in what look like short nightgowns, with long fringes of material attached to the back. The press information refers to these male and female dancers as ‘The Witches’, but they also seem to represent the states of mind of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth at the play’s moments of crisis.

As if to intensify Lady Macbeth’s complaint that "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand", the movement Guerin devises for the performers on ‘the play side’ is all about hands. What they do with the rest of their bodies is stripped back to the minimum. Attention is drawn to fingers that point or beckon, to hands that mime the pouring of wine, the rocking of a baby, the cutting off of someone’s head. This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the piece. The dancers on the ‘play’ side of the stage have no recourse to dancey movement of the arms and legs. They are forced to be silent actors. It is a challenge that Adam Park (Macbeth) and Stephen Wright (Banquo) meet particularly well.

<i>Terra Incognita</i> © Elliott Franks
Terra Incognita
© Elliott Franks
 The dancing of ‘The Witches’ on the other side begins promisingly (Simone Damberg Würtz’s hand, working its way through a gap) and ends on a powerful note (three dancers becoming recognisable as the ‘weird sisters’ of the play’s first act). Little that happens in between really registers, though apprentice dancer Jacob O’Connell makes his mark for musicality and conviction. The score is unremarkable, the set both minimalist and fussy. Ultimately, Tomorrow is encumbered by the concept that produced it.

The other two works on the triple bill see the company in more familiar territory. The title of Shobana Jeyasingh’s Terra Incognita may mean ‘unknown land’, but Rambert premiered this work at Sadler’s Wells in 2014. Eighteen months on, it is a work that has bedded down. From Luke Ahmet’s solo, a short way in, the piece gains momentum across a series of male-female, male-male duets to Gabriel Prokofiev’s unsettling blend of percussion and strings. Its climax, now, resonates.

<i>A Linha Curva</i> © Chris Nash
A Linha Curva
© Chris Nash
Itzik Galili’s A Linha Curva was first performed by Rambert in 2009. Mixing samba, capoeira and contemporary dance, it puts twenty-eight dancers from the company and from the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance on the stage. On a raised platform at the back, like a generator, are the four percussionists of Percossa. In their different groups, the male dancers are seen to compete, the female dancers to co-operate. Although it allows for outstanding solos by Hannah Rudd and Miguel Altunaga, the piece is at its best when all the dancers are crowded on to the stage. Waving their arms and thrusting their hips in carefully arranged squares of green and purple light, they resemble the dancers as moving shapes of Frederick Ashton’s La Valse.

***11