Adrenaline jolts through veins as eight dancers swarm the Plymouth Athenaeum stage, executing jumpy, harsh movements under flashing lights and dark scores of music. We’ve all heard the tale of Oliver Twist, but not so much about his antagonist, career criminal Fagin. Avant Garde brought the rewired tale to Barbican Theatre this Autumn and it told an entirely reimagined side of Dicken’s classic novel.
Directed by Tony Adigun, Avant Garde as a company is far from its burgeoning roots. Adigun has performed with the likes of Janet Jackson, Usher, Ashanti, Whitney Houston and Cheryl Cole and was even the Creative Director for Sky1’s ‘Got To Dance’; he clearly knows what he’s doing, and it shows. This company has the foundation of a pioneer which is reflected throughout the evening. Speaking of the performance, he says:
“I was looking for a classic tale to re-tell, and finally settled on the story of Oliver Twist. In thinking about the different characters in the book, with the team, I set about re-imagining some of them; discussing what led them to the point at which the story we all know starts, and creating backstories for those who didn’t have them. Oliver’s character seemed too simple, he was too nice and everything just fell into place for him. It seemed too easy for him. Fagin was the last one we looked at. I’m a believer in the underdog and I was really interested in his personality. I wanted to take his journey before he got to the point where he’s most recognisable and look at his past, at his childhood and see what parallels I could make between him and Oliver”.
“I want audiences to feel something. I say to my dancers: your job is to evoke an emotion from the audience, whatever that may be. If they hate it, take it: you’ve brought something out of them. The worst thing is for someone to be at a show for an hour and not feel anything. I also like the audience to think. I don’t like things to be laid out plain and obvious: I want the audience to find things for themselves.”
The performance in its entirety had no lull, no dull moment in which to discreetly check the time on your phone. It picks you up with rotting, gripping hands and shakes you with its skittish hip-hop score. With the noise of a whole troupe’s feet slamming down at once, the storyline drums into your brain and entices your eyes across the stage. Artistry wise, this production floods the senses and spikes your blood pressure with its haunting and ongoing narrative.
In terms of storyline, this dance compels you to question your feelings towards Oliver Twist’s tale and to take the time to understand why Fagin is such a renowned career criminal. Corruption seeps through every channel of this story and it infects everyone. We watch Oliver become heir to Fagin’s enterprise, but at what cost? Watching him go from victim to victor is both conflicting and enchanting.
This show is worth far more than its price bracket demands. If you can watch Avant Garde on their Fagin’s Twist tour, I implore you to do so. It’ll change your view of dance and Dicken’s time old tale, forever. Find tickets here: http://www.avantgardedance.com/calendar/.