Voices in the Alleyway is a collaboration between Faith Drama Productions and Spread Expression exploring three characters’ pasts, blending influences of basketball, new jack swing with hip hop theatre together.
TJ (Sannchia Gaston), Beyanda (Tulimelila Shityuwete) and Badda (Christopher ‘Worm’ Lewis) are three basketball players who deny their past and deny their gifts, forced to listen to their gut feelings and intuition by listening to the voices in the alleyway, three Apparition characters played by Daniel Limbaya, Kendra Horsburgh and Rod Pandinuela.
Having previewed a sample of Voices in the Alley at Collabo 2011 at Stratford Circus, which transitioned into a debut for the exciting trailer (above), you have to applaud director and choreographer Cindy Claes for being so daring with her approach to theatre. Like Avant Garde‘s Illegal Dance (another boundary pushing dance theatre debut at Stratford Circus) and similar contemporary dance theatre productions, Spread Expression and Faith Drama aren’t afraid to tinker with the formula for contemporary dance in the theatre. It too, like Illegal Dance, fuses dance with spoken word, video projection and atmospheric lighting by Alexander Allen.
Joined with Kweku Aacht producing the show’s soundtrack, Voices in the Alleyway packs some atmospheric punch, backed by dramaturgy by Gbemisola Ikumelo. One highlight (pardon the lighting pun) was where the stage lights shone on the audience with two of the Apparitions arguing in the aisles – another parallel with Illegal Dance‘s immersive theatre experience.
However, a drawback of the lighting and set were video projections rendered blurry and hard to follow by the dark stage wall, making it difficult to pick up on key parts of the back story where the videos filled in. Missing out so much leaves you questioning just what the character’s backstories were.
Considering the excitement and high production value of the Voices in the Alleyway trailer it’s a shame to see the effort put into producing the videos projected on stage go to waste and will hopefully be fixed in future runs.
There were many outstanding choreographed moments in Voices in the Alley, from well staged basketball routines (overseen by Kenrick Sandy) to contemporary routines with technical lifts, seemlessly blended into a quick pace with smooth transitions on and off stage.
Kendra Horsburgh (Kro of BirdGang), despite being one of the ensemble cast (one of three Apparitions) stood out for her dynamism, and you would also be wrong to label special guest performer Worm from LA’s krumping Demolition Crew, as ‘just a krumper’ simply because that’s the style he leads in.
Claes’ experimentation defines her as an ‘artist’ rather than just a choreographer (or dance backpacker, as she likes to see herself) by using the full abilities of her cast, but in aiming for an abstract approach makes it harder to digest for the average viewer. It still references urban culture with a nod to the New Jack Swing era, shooting hoops and having fun in the street, making it accessible enough to ‘get,’ but with a contemporary dancing twist and an unclear back story due to the difficult to see videos, it made it hard to grasp.