Choreographer and Director: Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Slickly choreographed and featuring a host of talented youngsters, Tales of the Turntable hip hops its way to the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, but perhaps a little too slickly for its own good. Set pieces are immaculately performed but often the precision of the moves is clinical.
Eric lives with his grandfather, and spends his schooldays being bullied. We first meet him trying to retrieve his rucksack that his bullies have stolen and then toss between them. In this first dance sequence the story is clearly told with sharp moves, shoves and pushes. But after this we have a narrator to help tell this story of the origins of dance music. At first the narrator’s disembodied voice is intrusive, but it does help explain the story to the younger members of the audience. However, when the narrator takes on the voices of the characters (who never speak for themselves) the result is very funny, especially the cartoony voice of Eric.
A budding DJ, Eric starts listening to old vinyls with his grandfather and in a time travel twist they are hurled back to the jazz clubs of the 1920s or to record stores in the ‘70s at the height of disco. These set pieces involving the entire cast look striking on Jacob Hughes’s semi-circular set and under Matt Cater’s swirling lights. The dancers are nimble and neat, but seem restrained, too, by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography and DJ Walde’s original numbers, which, although evoking the genres of hip hop, swing and disco, sound too similar.
It’s not until the end, with Chris Brown’s Turn Up The Music, that the energy levels soar with some freestyle. Here the dancers are able to show off their individual skills and, as they stream down the aisles, it’s exciting stuff, but you can’t help but wish that this had come earlier on in the 70-minute show.
Best of all are the costumes by Natalie Pryce – slinky calottes for the 20s, shell suits for the 80s and flares so cool that they make you ache for a return to the 70s. All fit this young squad well, and all the dancers brim with enthusiasm regardless of what they’re wearing. As our two leads, Abdul Basit Ayanwusi as Eric and William Pascua as Granddad are excellent; Ayanwusi manages to convey a teenager’s awkwardness while Pascua obtains the laughs with arthritic break-dancing.
Tales of the Turntable is a smooth spin, and is the latest work by ZooNation, the company founded by Kate Prince, and responsible for hit shows such as Into the Hoods and Some Like it Hip Hop. ZooNation was also behind the very underrated Sylvia at the Old Vic last year. Hailed as Britain’s version of Hamilton, the show told the story of the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst through hip hop, soul and rap. We can only hope that the rumours of that show’s return are true.
Runs until 26 August 2019 | Image: Contributed