Spellbinding. A major artistic collaboration throwing up a beautiful, original, resonant creation that enraptured for 75 minutes.
Cherkaoui's body may well be made of the same foam rubber as Gormley's casts. Incredibly fluid and floppy yet awesomely strong, controlled and poised. Khan looks compact in contrast, rippling with strength and inner dynamism, yet their partnership is physically complementary and their intimacy, with each other and the audience, is natural and compelling to witness. The opening sequence of the two men, head to head, intricately combining and brushing away forearms was beautiful.
The set is stunning; a huge arctic lit box except the glare is warm, not alienating. It seems to emphasise the smallness of the bodies within it, yet they dominate the space too. And their inanimate life size sculptured bodies flank the stage, get sat on, dragged about. One of them eerily stands on its own. A white line divides the stage from back to front sectioning the stage and making manifest zero degrees; a meridian, the borderline. Khan & Cherkaoui dance either side of it, cross it, disregard it. Unobtrusive, yet persistently there.
The piece is framed by a story about a journey from Bangladesh to Calcutta narrated by the two performers in perfect unison, with excellent synchronised gestures, opening and spliced between dance segments. It's realistic, unpretentious, amusing and raises issues of identity; considers death, which the choreography goes on to explore.
Khan and Cherkaoui are on stage for the entire piece, save the last few moments. The choreography is incredibly simple in places: a sequence of energising, stage traversing turns and steps, rolling around on the floor, bouncing off the walls, exploring the space, and impossibly complex and physically demanding in others: Cherkaoui's contortionistic solo section which left him lying at times, a lifeless body twisted the wrong way, yet reviving and filling with life again and defying his own bones, and Khan's gliding, fitting, juddering, jerking finale, escalating out of Cherkaoui's lament into an electrifying and disturbing climax.
Nitin Sawhney's score is tremendous, performed live with the musicians at the back of the stage, occasionally lit through the backdrop, travelling a whole spectrum of 'East meets West'. Particularly gorgeous use of cello and violin at the close of the piece takes the place of Khan and Cherkaoui, who abandon their dummies to the stage. The heartbreaking strings cast an emotional intensity around their absence.
This was truly a collaborative piece, suceeding not only on the merits of its charismatic and vastly talented performer/choreographers but in the combination of all its elements. How refreshing.