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7 March 2016 | 11:41 am | Thomas Munday

"Apocrifu is a transformative theatre experience, combining Cherkaoui's ambition, process, and affection for live performance."

Apocrifu, a staple of this year's Perth International Arts Festival, is a wondrous spectacle in contemporary dance theatre. Over 75 minutes its magnetic cast ventures into the true meanings of religion, language, and life.

Following on from Belgian-Moroccan choreographer and dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's previous show, Myth, left off, its lead character, the Librarian, longs to discover the functions of writing and language. Cherkaoui, along with Tokyo Ballet alumni Yasuyuki Shuto and dancer/circus artist Dimitri Jourde, question how holy scriptures influence all major ideologies and global religions from Christianity to Islam and Marxism.

Apocrifu, the first collaboration between Cherkaoui's company Eastman and Brussels' De Munt/La Monnaie Opera House, embraces the sheer power of dance, music, and theatre. Cherkaoui, Shuto, and Jourde combine an expansive array of styles and influences into an original, thought-provoking creation. Its solo and group routines illuminate their unique, awe-inspiring approach to body language and movement.

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Accentuated by story and design, Apocrifu's intensifying political and social discussion taps into relativism, distinctive worlds, opposing forces and languages created through artistic pursuits. Supporting Cherkaoui's immersive attention to detail, Herman Sorgeloos' wooden staircase, suggesting the path to Heaven and the abyss, provides an earthy aesthetic and texture. Its stripped-back direction integrates narration, swords, books, and Bunraku puppets into nuanced, comedic moments.

Corsican vocal/polyphonic ensemble A Filetta, working alongside Cherkaoui for the second time, delivers soothing harmonies throughout Apocrifu's visceral, sensory journey. Intertwining gracefully with each dancer's routines, the group's choral backdrop provides a unique sound unbeknownst to contemporary audiences.

Apocrifu is a transformative theatre experience, combining Cherkaoui's ambition, process, and affection for live performance.