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Review: Message in a Bottle – Peacock Theatre, London

What do you get when you weave Kate Prince’s hip hop choreography together with Sting’s greatest hits, a dance company with superpowers and a story that centres on the plight of refugees? You get Message in a Bottle, a dance-off at the Peacock Theatre which is dizzying to watch and which will leave you weak at the knees.

Kate Prince’s choreography credits include “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” “Some Like it Hip Hop” and “Strictly Come Dancing.” She spearheads the hip-hop dance company, Zoo Nation, which is also a Resident Company at Sadler’s Wells.

Message in a Bottle, Peacock Theatre

Image: Helen Maybanks

Message in a Bottle is the story of three siblings, Leo, Mati and Tana, who are separated from their family and loved ones during the onset of war. Their utopian village is torn apart as war groans and roars around them, and they set off on the perilous journey to a new land. It’s a story of displacement, slavery, migration, incarceration and trauma, yo-yoing between despair and hope.

The tale unfolds with 28 of Sting’s songs, some original tracks (sung by Sting) and some re-arranged by Tony and Grammy-winner, Alex Lacamoire, of Hamilton fame. Guest vocalists include Beverley Knight.

“Don’t Stand so Close to me” is played during the agonising moment when the women are secluded, raped and taken into slavery. “Every Breath you Take” is used as the backdrop for the detainment centre, and “Roxanne,” for the moment when one of the women is saved from human trafficking.

Message in a Bottle, Peacock Theatre

Image: Sadler’s Wells

But there are also hopeful moments in this visual storytelling, one which needs no dialogue and is told instead through its musical and dance muscle. It’s vibrant and explosive, both moving and beautiful to watch, thanks also to some brilliant set design by Ben Stones and costume design by Anna Fleischle.

And don’t get me started on the dynamics of the dancers. How on earth did they just do that ?  sprung to mind many times as my lazy bum was ensconced in my seat. The company was led by the legendary Lukas McFarlane as Leto, super trouper Tommy Franzen as Mati and elastigirl Natasha Gooden as TanaThe ZooNation dancers blew the gymnastic lid off of Sting’s songs, resulting in a leaping, dazzling kaleidoscope of movement.

As these human gazelles soared and tumbled, the message in the bottle was clear: there is hope, Inshallah, and lordy is there some astonishing dance-theatre talent on-stage at the Peacock right now. Grab yourself a ticket before it closes on the 21 March. The production will move on to Theatre de la Ville Luxembourg (26 – 28 March), The Lowry, Salford (1 – 4 April) and Birmingham Hippodrome (8 – 11 April), with further international dates to be confirmed.

Message in a Bottle is on at the Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells. You can book tickets here.

I was a guest of Sadler’s Wells. As always, opinions are my own.


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A London arts and culture blog featuring articles about art, theatre, opera, dance, music and design.

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