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THEATRE: Horses steal the show in Bartabas’ Golgota flamenco at Sadler’s Wells

17:07 15 March 2016

Golgota... Creation by Bartabas [Photos: Nabil Boutros]

Golgota... Creation by Bartabas [Photos: Nabil Boutros]

© Nabil Boutros/WikiSpectacle

Bartabas’s production of Golgota at Sadler’s Wells with horses performing alongside their human partners brings its own special quality, as you adjust to a slower pace of life as imagined in Holy Week in old Seville, writes Allis Moss.

Golgota... by BartabasGolgota... by Bartabas

Scenes from penitence to the agony of The Passion capture the rituals of Seville on a stage lit to look like an El Greco painting.

Bartabas with his choreography of horses brings his four equine performers and Flamenco dancer Andres Marin onto the sawdust stage in this eerily beautiful, offbeat and haunting performance.

Marin dances mostly in bare feet, though he also uses a rather large tile at one point to display his command of zapateado—the flamboyant tapping of the Flamenco rhythm where the feet provide the beat.

The horses and their entourage have travelled from their camp at the equestrian Theatre Zingaro that Bartabas founded in Paris in the 1980s. Some of the animals, like the grey Horizonte, have been with him almost as long.

Golgota at Sadler's Wells... Bartabas with flamenco dancer Andres MarinGolgota at Sadler's Wells... Bartabas with flamenco dancer Andres Marin

Up to 40 horses can take part in epic performances in France—but at Sadler’s Wells the sometimes brooding, sometimes quirky atmosphere with just four horses was more intimate, as Marin on his feet and Bartabas astride or leading his animals worked together.

Scenes of simplicity unfold, like the monk having his feet washed, or a procession of celebrants, with countertenor Christophe Baska accompanied by lute and cornet singing Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Renaissance compositions.

Tall pointed hats with lighted wicks, the swinging of incense, ruffs and bells are the stage props.

The horses performing in gentle precision on stage are the humans’ counterpart, walking as if in dressage, cantering, rolling and even whinnying.

A highlight is Marin’s use of special shoes to mimic in dance the hooves of the horses around him.

One of the most poignant moments that leaves you thinking came near the end—a man sits with head in hands in despair, but his horse is rolling playfully, luxuriantly in the sawdust, loving the simple things in life.

Golgota runs until Monday, March 21, at Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, near Clerkenwell—tickets £12-£45 [Angel tube]

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