Wales Millennium Centre, Fri 12 Apr.
Were the Beatles overrated? – that debate has been raging for decades. But whatever you think, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remains a seminal album, marking the Fab Four’s transition from pop tunes to psychedelia. Mark Morris’s foray into the mindset of the 1960s is a mass of colour and energy, sunglasses, struts and jumps and leaps. The critics love Pepperland and so it seems do audiences.
But is this a case of ‘emperor’s new clothes’? You can’t fault the dancers whose every move was precise and elegant; they were fluid and light and often seemed to float. But I expected to be taken into the world of the album, of Rita the meter maid, Lucy (in the sky) and Mr Kite – such colourful characters would have suited the costumes – but out of thirteen tracks less than half were used; the rest of the score was original material and without lyrics (could anyone compete with Lennon and McCartney?). Without the words to act as a guide, the dancing was hard to interpret.
This hour-long show was book-ended by the album’s title track and its reprise, When I’m Sixty-Four was humorous and whimsical, A Day In The Life was grand and Penny Lane an added bonus. Yet, in between I was left wondering what Morris was trying to say. The choreography needed variety and, without a cohesive story, the performance was really one extended dance routine.
The dancers made up for in cheerfulness and vibrancy what the score lacked. The live orchestra added authenticity, but Clinton Curtis’s dour monotone voice seemed out of place with the whimsy on stage, and his head sticking up above the parapet was distracting. Morris looked chuffed when he took his bow, but one has to wonder if he’s tried to be too clever this time. The audience clapped with vigour but I felt unsatisfied.
Pepperland is on tour around England and in Dublin until May 1st and is an enjoyable enough romp that’s easy on the eye.
words Lynda Nash
Tour dates and info here