REVIEW: ‘Pepperland’, Birmingham Hippodrome

Pepperland‘, Birmingham Hippodrome

  It’s time to cast off those lonely hearts with carefree abandon, and get lost in the colourful world of Mark Morris’ ‘Pepperland’.

  Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ groundbreaking album, this is a production guaranteed to raise a smile.

  Featuring a score by long-time Morris collaborator Ethan Iverson, the piece features innovative arrangements of classic songs from the album, including ensemble through innovative arrangements of iconic songs from the record including ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, ‘A Day in the Life’, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, ‘Within You Without You’, and ‘Penny Lane’, all of which are teased out and elaborated, to the point where, at times, they are barely recognisable. Alongside these arrangements are a set of imaginative original compositions by Iverson.

Pepperland_Seattle 2018_Mat Hayward - 0273
The company in Pepperland. Photo credit: Mat Hayward

  Choreographer Morris employs live music for his dancers even in rehearsals, which certainly pays off. We find here a marriage between music and movement, a communication between the two elements that speaks for itself. The relationship between the two is so powerful, so interlocked, and ultimately so complementary, that it becomes difficult to distinguish which engenders the other. Instead, it appears as though to two just exist alongside each other, as dancers and music work together, running in parallel lines.

  Morris’ ingenious choreography is executed with effortless precision by his company of dancers, their free-flowing movement boasting an air of liberation. This well-constructed, well-choreographed piece is confident in its vibrant abstraction, whilst frequently lending itself to the narrative of The Beatles’ songs, with occasional stamps of symbolism, and sometimes even literal movement. Particularly noteworthy performances comes from a dynamic Lesley Garrison, a heartfelt Dallas McMurray, and an expressive Nicola Sabella.

Pepperland_Seattle 2018_Mat Hayward - 9315
The company in Pepperland. Photo credit: Mat Hayward

  When the production begins, we are introduced to a whole host of figures, contemporaries of The Beatles, namely Laurel and Hardy, Marilyn Monroe, and Oscar Wilde. Whilst the piece feels refreshingly modern, it is gently tinged with a nostalgia that hearkens back to the 60s.

  The pace of the piece is softened during the stirring solos and duets – which see several gender variations in its pairings – before reaching an exhilarating peak when all fifteen dancers flood the stage at once.

  With its striking stage design, ‘Pepperland’ is in your eyes and ears. Bold, bright colours are used by way of set, lighting and costume, vividly enhancing the dancers’ animated performances. This rainbow of colour results in an exciting psychedelic polychrome, worlds away from the monotony of everyday life. As with the album itself, the piece generates an eye-catching escapism.

  An explosion of colour, creativity and kineticism, ‘Pepperland’ is a perfect tribute to the unparalleled artistry of The Beatles’ iconic album.

Pepperland_Seattle 2018_Mat Hayward - 8903
The company in Pepperland. Photo credit: Mat Hayward

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s