It’s hard to define this piece from Joli Vyann company: is it ballet, is it circus, is it gymnastics, is it theatre – is it art? Probably yes on all counts. The piece centres around the plight of refugees, hence the title. There’s no simple narrative or storyline; rather it uses movement wordlessly to create atmospheres, accompanied by highly evocative music and soundscapes which occasionally include words spoken by actual refugees from several of the war-torn disaster areas of our troubled world. It is, necessarily, a very dark piece – sometimes literally, with lighting dimmed almost to invisibility. Most particularly in a chilling sequence evoking the confinement and helplessness of refugees in the hands of traffickers, which has the aura of the damned writhing in the lowest circle of Hell. The agility and grace of the performers is superbly co-ordinated and disciplined throughout, sometimes achieving heights of acrobatic mastery which take the breath away; but the images are always to the point, and not merely look-at-me demonstrations of technique. Altogether this is a very thoughtful piece of great power and beauty, which evokes compassion and horror in equal measure: but also hope – and so challenges the callous attitudes towards migrants in our country today. Visually stunning, intellectually and emotionally stimulating, deeply satisfying.
John Christopher Wood