OzAsia Review: Until the Lions’ moving Australian premiere

“It’s time,” a haunting voice echoes. “It’s time to begin, to begin”.

Until the Lions is a fluid, dynamic and haunting production of a tale from the ancient Indian Sanskrit text The Mahabharata. It is much more than your average story of revenge.

From acclaimed UK  dancer and choreographer Akram Khan, Until the Lions explores the strength and endurance of the female character through the freedoms refused to them due to gender inequalities.

Four musicians surrounded the circular stage with all music produced live for the energetic performance. Stunning vocals from Sohini Alam and David Azurza are accompanied by an energetic and original percussion composition from Yaron Engler and Joseph Ashwin.

The show’s title come from the book of the same name by Indian poet Karthika Nair who reimagined the 2,000 year old text from a female’s perspective.

Visual artist Tim Yip’s stage design (originally in an arena seating venue) is bare but begins to rise in the middle throughout the performance, revealing light and smoke beneath it.

Khan’s adaption surrounds the story of Princess Amba, portrayed by Ching-Ying Chien who is abducted on the day she is set to choose a husband by the powerful warrior Prince Bheesma, danced by Rianto. With her chances of love taken from her she vows revenge and invokes the power of the gods to be reborn as the warrior Shikhandi.

In the dramatic finale, taking place on a battlefield, arrows thrown onto the stage by the band surround the body of the fallen warrior Bheesma. The audience is left haunted with the image of a merciless Amba and Shikhandi standing over him victorious.

The spider-like character of Shikhandi watches the pair from the beginning of the performance, suggesting it was in Amba’s destiny to become the warrior. Shikhandi, a demon like character with no disclosed gender is portrayed by Joy Alpuerto Ritter who moves with fluid and fast movements as she stalks the two characters with limbs extruding at almost impossible angles.

With the cast and crew receiving a standing ovation at the conclusion of the performance, Until the Lions’ Australian premiere was an exciting yet evocative performance of dance theatre.

To view the full OzAsia Festival program, click here

Image: Jean Louis Fernandez

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