Carlos Acosta review: 'Bold' first show back at Norwich Theatre Royal

Two dancers from Carlos Acosta’s show On Before at Norwich Theatre Royal

Two dancers from Carlos Acosta’s show On Before at Norwich Theatre Royal. - Credit: Norwich Theatre / Dibs McCallum.

Two dancers and influences from across the arts came together for this captivating reworking of Carlos Acosta’s 2010 show On Before.

The nine-piece showcase marked the first major show at Norwich’s Theatre Royal in 2021, and while the social distancing and face masks made it feel like a tentative step, the movements on stage were anything but.

On Before was the first show back at Norwich Theatre Royal.

On Before was the first show back at Norwich Theatre Royal. - Credit: Norwich Theatre / Dibs McCallum.

This is a bold and wide-ranging show, that draws on multiple choreographers and music from classical to electronica and features both live and filmed dance - all held together with a muted palette of blacks and whites.

Indeed the staging, while simple, is often as impressive as the dancing, particularly the dozens of candles framing Laura Rodríguez in the mournful Footnote to Ashton and the exactingly placed spotlights for Two that make Acosta’s hands burn as bright as whirling torches.

Throughout a specially-assembled local group of singers, drawn from Keswick Hall Choir among others, provide a silent and ghostly presence before erupting into sound for the uplifting finale O Magnum Mysterium.


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There is a very different Christian influence in the opening title piece On Before, with Acosta and Rodríguez synchronizing with the increasingly frenzied spliced speech of a US evangelist.

As well as marking a new start for the venue post-pandemic, the show also marks a new departure for Norwich Theatre as a touring producer, with a tour taking in Salford, Southampton and Canterbury following its opening two nights in Norfolk.

Two dancers from Carlos Acosta's On Before at Theatre Royal Norwich

Two dancers and influences from across the arts came together for this captivating reworking of Carlos Acosta’s 2010 show On Before. - Credit: Norwich Theatre / Dibs McCallum.

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It is strong start: the Acosta and Rodríguez are captivating and demonstrate their skill and range without hesitation, and the production and design accentuates their movements with an apparent ease that belies the talent at work.

The two dancers are perfectly matched, and their interactions in the intimate new duet Nosotros were particularly exquisite.

This show would be a delight at any time, but in the current context the audience just couldn’t clap loud enough.

Carlos Acosta: On Before concludes at Norwich Theatre Royal on July 17, touring nationally until August 7.

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