Theatre Review: The Centaur And The Animal

‘A piece of theatre like none I have seen before.’ Four horses and a renowned equestrian trainer perform live on stage at Sadler’s Wells, blending the boundary between man and beast, in THE CENTAUR AND THE ANIMAL.

FOR six nights only, Sadler’s Wells plays host to Bartabas, world-renowned equestrian trainer and performer, and Ko Murobushi, master of the Japanese dance form Butoh.

Joining them on stage are Horizonte, Soutine, Pollock and Le Tintoret, four beautiful and intelligent horses that have each been trained in dressage and performance by Bartabas over the last 10 years. His company – Zingaro Equestrian Theatre – has being touring globally for 25 years, but The Centaur and the Animal marks his first collaboration with Ko Murobushi and his first appearance in London.

This is a piece of theatre like none I have seen before. It blends the violent, straining movement of Murobushi’s Butoh dance, which takes place on a stark white forestage, with the hypnotic choreography of the horse which takes place on a huge sandy dressage pit and occupies the rest of the stage.

The effect is breathtaking, with Bartabas and the animals forming a symbiosis it is hard to tell where man and beast separate. These exquisite animals display such poise and control that you begin to see them as human. It’s quite extraordinary to witness. Murobushi’s dance too is thrilling, as he contorts and challenges his 70-year-old body into positions that are incredible and mesmerising.

This effect is apocalyptic and hauntingly beautiful. The balance between the two elements of this piece – Murobushi’s dance and Bartabas’ equestrian theatre – is perfect; they each inform and challenge the other, questioning the order of things and man’s secret dread that inside all of us looms an animal.

* Showing at Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, EC1, until Sunday, March 6.