Review: Dada Masilo's The Sacrifice at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice – Newcastle Theatre Royal

11th April 2023

I have been given an absolutely treat this evening at a performance that I probably would not have chosen to go along and see. Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice is inspired by Pina Bauch’s The Rite of Spring which sees the dawning of a new spring and the renewal of the earth through a virgin dancing herself to death. This interpretation is so much more and incorporates some wonderful movement from the eleven strong troupe of amazing dancers. 

The stage is very blank and the opening of the show, reminiscent of another famous African musical that is currently playing in the north east, and we are introduced to our protagonist, danced exquisitely by Dada Masilo herself. She is mesmerising as she glides around the stage and hypnotic as she interprets the traditional dance of the Tswana people of whom she is a part. A maternal figure is then introduced by the impressive singer, Ann Masina, whose vocals continue throughout the piece and form a visual and dramatic conclusion to this one act piece. I will talk more about the music a little later. This interpretation of the story is not just about our tragic lead but her interaction with all the people that she meets whether it be the townsfolk, individuals or the man who may or may not be her love interest. 

There is certainly something to be taken from this production for anyone who is watching it. At the very informative Q+A session after the performance this evening, Dada talked about her influences and her reasons for putting the show together. She is clearly very passionate about her work and that shows in her dancing and that of the rest of the company who are impressively in wonderful synchronisation throughout this production and filled the stage effortlessly with their bodies and energy. 

The original score is composed and performed by Ann Masina, Leroy Mapholo, Mpho Mothiba and Nathi Shongwe playing all manner of instruments including a keyboard, an incredibly haunting violin and a percussion section, the operation of which deserves a dancing credit all by itself. I mentioned the Q+A and one audience member asked about the music and the synergy between the dancing and the band. The answer was that they are as one in Botswana to which the dance form is native. 

There was no set as such with a couple of projections which suggested the dawning of the morning sun leading into the trees in Springtime. This was very effective in its minimalism and the lighting was wonderfully atmospheric down to the talent of Suzette le Sueur. The sound by Tebogo Moloto was clear throughout except at the last when Masina’s microphone failed but with the wonderful power of the vocals, the audience barely noticed, and she regaled the patrons who stayed behind with a reprise of the very moving ending to the show. The costumes by David Hutt were very appropriate and well thought out. 

This production’s tour closes at The Theatre Royal, Newcastle so you only have one more chance to see it tomorrow evening. However, it was presented in association with Dance Consortium who return to the Theatre Royal on 24th -25thOctober with Ailey 2 from the United States ‘…merging the spirit and energy of the finest early-career dancers with the passion and creative vision of the most outstanding and emerging choreographers.’

Tonight, though, is all about Dada Masilo’s vision. In her words she wanted to create, ‘… a story that is deeper than a chosen maiden dancing herself to death.’ Mission accomplished Ms. Masilo and bravissimo.

-Stephen Stokoe

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