Justitia @ Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre

I was lucky enough to be able to go to the press showing of ‘Justitia’* – the new production by the Jasmin Vardimon Company. Billed as a dance piece, I would say Justitia was more of a movement heavy physical theatre piece – there was a very strong crime story line running through the piece that you don’t often see in modern dance.

The concept of the show was really interesting – exploring the justice system, the audience were asked to be the jury in a murder trial, and were ‘played’ the various scenarios that may have lead to the crime. Being physical dance theatre, this was a hugely evocative and powerful way to explore such themes as rape, crimes of passion, marriage and abortion. There was also a sub-theme running through the whole piece about the power of words. During various scenes the court stenographer’s notes were projected onto a screen, questioning whether something happened because she wrote it or vice-versa. It is safe to say the whole piece had a truly harrowing edge to it.

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The set was phenomenal – there were 3 sections on a rotating platform, a living room, a dining room and one representing the court and a therapy room with chairs stacked into the wall. The space was incredibly well used, with doors allowing seamless movement between sections. Similarly the music was fabulously chosen –  a mixture of well known songs (such as Bridge over Troubled Water) and beautiful electronic music. And the Pac-Man theme song with a dubstep backtrack. That was very cool.

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In terms of the choreography there is very little I can fault. Each character had their own movements, and there were various motifs running through the piece that tied everything together. There was a perfect balance between straight dance sequences, more symbolic sections and proper physical theatre that allowed the story to be told without the audience every forgetting that these are dancers, not actors. My favourite character was the court stenographer. She had a very animalistic feel to her movements – everything was very low and smooth. The murder victim also had a very interesting movement style, which seemed to be based on a 70s sleaze-ball/ breakdancer which made for an hilarious combination. All the dancers were fantastic – it sounds silly but they were just SO physical; jumping, leaping and falling to the floor with incredible ease and lacking any fear.

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What was lovely about this piece, other than the sheer beauty of it, was that the entire company has just moved to Ashford in Kent, where the performance was created. The council has effectively given the company a disused sports centre where they plan to create a dance school and permanent rehearsal space for the company. Listening to everyone talk with such enthusiasm about this project was really inspiring and the work they are planning to put into the area and the community really shows how valuable creative spaces are. I was lucky enough to meet Jasmin, who is a wonderfully gracious and lovely lady, and I really wish them all the best!

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*Justitia was playing just for the week at the Peacock Theatre, but do look out for more performances from this very exciting dance company.

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