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Review: VOICES OF THE AMAZON, Latitude Festival

What an introduction to Latitude: entering a world unlike anything you've seen or heard before. And I'm not even talking about the Faraway Forest. From Sister's Grimm, Voices of the Amazon immerses audiences in the sights and sound of the Amazon. However, despite stunning choreography, the production doesn't shout so much as whisper.

Telling the story of two water spirits, tragedy strikes when one life is threatened by a deadly illness. As the other ventures deep into the Amazonian rainforest to find a cure, she discovers a new world, full of beauty but whose way of life is also threatened too.

Following the success of their Zulu ballet INALA, Sister's Grimm's new production is presented by Sadler's Wells (having played their earlier year). Fusing different styles of dance and music for the different worlds our protagonist encounters, Helen Pickett's choreography is thoughtful. The sisters' water world flows free: harmonious, the moves are soft and subtle. The rainforest is vivacious and vibrant: drum beats sound out, monkeys welcome our protagonist and us to this world.

It's fun and free, a welcome moment in an otherwise dark production. Devastation rears its head, as a fire ravages the local community, who have welcomed the sister. It's a moment of pure misshapen chaos, carefully crafted by Pickett.

The community and tribes make up the soundtrack of the Amazon, scored by percussionists Olodum and Brazilian songwriters. Accompanied by a live orchestra, the sounds of the Amazon come to life in live vocal performances. This soundtrack and performances alone salvage an otherwise struggling piece.

While the methods of storytelling work well together, what they have to work with is less impressive. The narrative feels lazy. Themes of ecology and environmentalism are touched on, but not fully explored. Conflict has immediate resolution: the poisoning of a sister should create dramatic tension. But having resolved both the threats of fire and fights earlier, there's no sense of dramatic tension.

Facets such as this make the narrative feel too Disney. This is not helped by Jeremy Irons' (albeit heartfelt) narration, who voiced Scar in The Lion King. There is even a sequence in which our sister's new found, human protector points to the stars, saying that he will watch over her as long as the stars are there. This may be Sister's Grimm's voice, but all I could hear was "He lives in you".

An impressive spectacle visually and audibly, Voices of the Amazon falls flat on one crucial element of storytelling: the actual story.

Voices of the Amazon tours internationally until 30 July.

See our steamy pictures of Voices of the Amazon.

Picture Credit: Johan Persson

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