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Review: Message In A Bottle

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By: Wendy Sheard, TRP Reviewer


Message in a Bottle, washes up on the shores of conflict and tells the story of destroyed communities, people and places. Yet it is also a message of love, hope and triumph, I was captivated from the very first bars of Stings evocative Desert Rose to the foot stomping finale of Sending Out an SOS.

Its pedigree speaks for itself, a Sadler’s Wells and Universal Music UK production, co-produced with Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry, combining ballet with contemporary and street dance. Every step is beautifully choreographed and directed by Kate Prince, nothing is wasted, every hand movement, every turn and twist of the body portrays an emotion or reaction.  Sting’s music is the soundscape for joy and celebration as well as disturbing themes portraying fear and violence.

This unique performance brings into sharp focus the reality facing many people across the world who face displacement from their homes. Through the spectacular talents of the dancers, each of them outstanding, we follow one family as they flee civil war and seek out a safer life far from home. We journey with them on a perilous sea crossing, experience the loss of loved ones, the desperation of people trafficking and much, much more.

The portrayal of a refugee camp is particularly stark and cruel; it is compelling and disturbing in equal measure. Images of barbed wire fences which are impossible to escape from, sinister guards, who taunt and deride, and the desperation of the ‘inmates’ who will use any means possible to receive the green light to freedom.

Lighting is used to brilliant effect throughout this performance and truly provides an extra dimension to this emotional production. The fusion of music, shadows and props is amazing; a memorable scene uses the lyrics to The Beds Too Big Without You, to explore the themes of loss and loneliness which is moving and deeply perceptive.

There are so many elements which tell the collective story, each conveying its own message. Vibrant colourful clothing is gradually replaced by grey and black utilitarian garb, making a triumphant return in the finale, signifying optimism for better times ahead. A simple ring, a symbol of love and fidelity tells of hope carried through the bleakest of moments and the joyful elation reunion brings. The desire to be accepted is explored through the lens of developing new relationships and finally how belongings, however meager, provide a sense of identity vital to us all.

Message in a Bottle, One Family, Three Stories, was a surprise, one that in all honesty I opened with some trepidation. It is a combination of the political, the theatrical and the magical, a captivating portrayal of people, pure and simple. I am left wondering about the next bottle and the message it holds, I can’t wait to find it!


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