Review: INK - DIMITRIS PAPAIOANNOU, Sadler's Wells

I found myself pining for some triplets in lycra

By: Feb. 29, 2024
Review: INK - DIMITRIS PAPAIOANNOU, Sadler's Wells
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Review: INK - DIMITRIS PAPAIOANNOU, Sadler's Wells Dimitris Papaioannou has a very impressive CV: stage director, choreographer, visual artist, illustrator and comic book creator. And not forgetting dancer of course!

In the 2024 UK premiere of his 2020 work, INK, we see Papaioannou himself and Šuka Horn perform a “nightmarish manhunt…testing the limits of reality.” Papaioannou is responsible for the concept, direction, sets, costumes and lights - so it truly is a one/two man show affair. And testing feels like an appropriate choice of word.

The Sadler’s Wells stage as a shallow paddling pool is a new one on me, but I'm afraid that's where any positive attributes finish in relation to INK.

Actually that's not entirely true. Papaioannou has undoubtedly created a visually arresting environment. He uses the reflective nature of water expertly, in relation to light and the ever trusty glitterball. But INK reaffirms that I enjoy dance that includes dance, and water features ideally as fountains in Rome.

The whole event feels like symbolism overload and prop/paraphernalia overkill, with very little actual movement content to hold onto.

Props wise you get a lot for your money however: haywire sprinklers, flicking fish, glass spheres and billowing plastic walls. There's numerous octopuses that act as merkins in between beatings, and an octobaby (part octopus/part human baby) who's breastfed by Papaioannou, before being eaten by both him and Horn. Oh, and the fish experience the same fate; being eaten that is, not suckling teat.

In relation to movement we're offered tussle, which I suppose initiates the beginning of the manhunt dynamic between the two. Their relationship is a confused one that switches between threat, equality and dominance but somehow doesn't go anywhere of interest as the piece develops. We also see periods of random jerking, primarily by Horn as the naked creature of sorts, which finds some added value through the miked amplification of his body contact sounds to the now sodden floor.

I always aim to observe work, especially that of a choreographer for the first time, with openness and anticipation, but in reality I found INK boring and infuriating. It's imperative for art to keep developing, but some current contemporary creations can feel so far removed from modern dance as we know it, they read like they herald from different galaxies. Throughout INK I found myself pining for some triplets in lycra, which on reflection I don't think is an issue; in fact, I believe it's the antidote.

INK runs at Sadler’s Wells until March 2

Photo credit: Julian Mommert


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