Review: Material Men Redux

Review: Material Men Redux

It's final night tonight

Tens of thousands of Indian, 19th Century indentured workers were deceived into signing on to work the sugar plantations half a world away in the Caribbean and Surinam. They were robbed of their lives.

Material Men Redux, finishing at the Hippodrome tonight, is an eloquent hour of dance reflecting those arduous hardhearted times. And to do it, they combine classical Indian choreography with contemporary street hiphop from the descendants of the field workers still in the Americas.

What you get in this two man show by the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Troupe is both a history lesson (not an easy one to gulp down) and a powerhouse of ancient and modern movement. Sooraj Subramaniam has the classical discipline and Shailesh Bahoran, from Surinam’s streets, has the urban chops.

It sounds a bit of a mishmash. Sometimes the two styles do not combine well; for instance, the intricate form of the classical style really does outshine the ad hoc semi gymnastic street moves. But the immediacy of the past isn’t lost as they use video and photographic backdrops to highlight the abusive way the British and Dutch treated their workers. Added to this portrait of Victorian inhumanity are voice-overs reading out messages of dire anguish to those back home they will never see again. A string quartet adds aural depth to both the story and the duet.

At an hour’s length, it is about the right duration. But the anger and despair are never off stage.

It ends tonight (Tuesday) and then tours. More

Words: Richard Lutz