Family Honour – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Choreographer: Kwame Asafo-Adjei

Kwame Asafo-Adjei’s 60-minute dance piece is inspired by a conversation he witnessed in Ghana between his sister and his father. Interested in this relationship between two generations, Family Honour slowly came to fruition in the mid 2010s. The daughter/father relationship reappears as the second part of the piece. The dance elements are tight, rhythmic and sharp, but the deliberately oblique story is sometimes too difficult to follow.

Family Honour begins with another relationship between a man and woman. Sometimes it seems as if they are husband and wife and, at others, mother and son. The pair has a domestic routine of tea, food and prayer. However, the threat of violence lingers under this homely scene and appears in intriguing ways. When either of them pours hot water from a kettle into a mug they suddenly drop to one knee, wincing audibly, as if they have been scalded. The man is a preacher, inviting the audience to pray with him. The woman seems less interested in religion, and this disinterest appears to annoy him.

Both dancers are excellent, and each second of the dance is precisely choreographed. Stefano A. Addae and Catrina Nisbett make loud clicks with their tongues and their breathing comes out in huffs and puffs, and these sounds become the beat that they dance to. In parts, it’s thrilling to watch especially when Addae rolls and slides upon the set’s tables and chairs, still delivering verses from the Bible.

Nisbett also plays the daughter in the second story, and incredibly her movements make her look years younger than her previous character. Asafo-Adjei plays the father, who totters on to the stage like an old man. Oddly and unsatisfyingly, the father’s age is forgotten once he sits down at the table. Here his movements are just as youthful as his daughter’s. They push and pull at their relationship in a routine that is breathlessly exact. At one point Asafo-Adjei slaps his own face, and with his mouth presents a large terrifying O to the audience. But the scene goes on for far too long and its energy fades.

Asafo-Adjei and his company Spoken Movement seek to explore the everyday lived experience of black people in Britain today, and the portrayals of religion and discipline within family life will be familiar to many who come to see the show. But overall there is sense that the narrative here could be stronger.

Runs until 15 September 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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