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Igor X Moreno Karrasekare Credit Cosimo Trimboli
Igor X Moreno Karrasekare Credit Cosimo Trimboli

Igor X Moreno Karrasekare: Review

Home » Reviews » Igor X Moreno Karrasekare: Review

Befuddled, bamboozled and more than a little punch-drunk. In this emotional/intellectual state, I stumble from the Quays Theatre at the Lowry after 12 rounds – or was it 80 minutes? – with the Igor x Moreno contemporary dance piece, ‘Karrasekare’.

We are told in the accompanying literature that choreographers, Igor Urzelai Hernando and Moreno Salinas, “value pointlessness.” Make of that what you will. This piece, we are also told, aims to “remove the flesh from human behaviour,” revealing us as “little more than instinctive animals fleshed out in human form.”

The performance contains, “suggestion of violence, nudity, haze and strobe.” All of these are present. Bear in mind, if this bothers you, that the nudity is fairly persistent (there is an 18+ recommendation). That said, there are no ‘scenes of a sexual nature.’ By my judgement, the nudity functions more as a marker of vulnerability, honesty, innocence.

Igor X Moreno Karrasekare Credit Fabio Sau
Igor X Moreno Karrasekare Credit Fabio Sau

As we take our seats, the lights are low, with stage (and to a lesser extent, auditorium) misted. A single, androgynous figure stands, half-lit, downstage right. The character, with long braids and a costume resembling chainmail, has a formal military or religious bearing. Silent, still, imposing.

He (for it is a ‘he’) begins to sing a capella. The sound is haunting but rather beautiful. The floor of the stage is uneven, littered: rubble? bodies? Against a grim black backdrop, the gloomy, barren landscape suggests a graveyard; has there been war or natural disaster? Or might it simply be, as Thomas Hobbes told us, that life in a state of nature would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’?

The song becomes more complex (is it other voices joining, or the man’s own accompanying and harmonising?) and the man unzips the upper part of his attire, adapting it into a cowl. His voice becomes higher-pitched, more eery and, as he turns and heads upstage, we see there is a mask at the back of his head, like an extra face, regarding us as he retreats. This image of the two faces will return. So far, so intriguing.

A naked figure, male, climbs out of the auditorium and onto the stage. Stumbling, disorientated, distressed, he begins to weep. A female character, naked but for furry boots, steps uncertainly into the landscape, the lighting now suggesting heavy snowfall underfoot. The woman too, starts to weep. One by one, seven assorted dancers (four male, three female) appear in disconcerting assortments of half-dress. One man wears a dress, another lacey tights over a thong. A woman is clad in a shirt but naked below the waist, yet another comes on with a suit jacket which soon falls from her. Each of them yields to wailing and grief. There is no clue as to the cause of this and, whilst they sometimes reach out, none offers comfort to any other.

And then, blood. Each of the seven has smears of blood on face, or hands, or body, or legs. What little human contact is portrayed is ambiguous, hazardous. Two men seem to be kissing but then one bites out the tongue of the other. This is the most extreme ‘suggestion of violence’ throughout, and interestingly, the audience is unsure how to react; some are shocked, some laugh at the grotesque absurdity of it.

Eventually, these seven characters gather together in a tight formation, but even now they do not really connect, each calling out in anger and anguish for her or his own pain, but showing no awareness of or regard for any other. It is all impressively harrowing.

Igor X Moreno Karrasekare Credit Cosimo Trimboli
Igor X Moreno Karrasekare Credit Cosimo Trimboli

The tone changes and now some genuine connections seem to be forged (mostly, these are ensemble bonds, interspersed by brief pairings or trios). They chant and whoop or ululate, they dance in formation (with immaculate synchronisation), they play a competitive but affirming version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Arm-in-arm, forming a strong circle (another motif) they push the floor covering into a heap, and shove it upstage left. This reveals artefacts – mainly headdresses, but some clothing – which they help each other put on. Each of these has a kind of face at the back (again, the notion of looking both ways; one real, one fake).

From this point, the most notable aspect becomes the stamina of the troupe. These seven are not built like olympic athletes or ballet dancers. There is a reasonable, though not exhaustive range of body shapes on display, yet their individual strength and fitness borders on the superhuman. They dance in circles with increasingly manic pace, or whirl crazily, tirelessly, sometimes carrying the weight of another as they spin. Sometimes clad, more often naked, they circle endlessly on.

The pace intensifies and the music becomes ever louder, more industrial. It is thrown at the audience, never flagging, almost like an unspoken challenge – we can endure this, can you?

Finally, they bundle up their artefacts inside the flooring and haul the crude bundle up into the sky. Water drips from it. Is it a menacing cloud, or a dark and misshapen world?

The performers exit, the light fades; a furry-headed creature pokes its nose through the backdrop to sip at the pool dripping from the suspended bundle. Lights down. It’s over, though it takes us a while to realise it.

The blurb says of Igor x Moreno:

They work with rigour and playfulness.

I just wish they’d worked with it for about 20 minutes less.


Igor X Moreno Karrasekare was at The Lowry, Salford on Wednesday 22 May 2024. Age recommendation 18+

Written by
Martin Thomasson

A winner (with Les Smith) of the Manchester Evening News award for Best New Play, Martin taught script-writing at the universities of Bolton and Salford, before becoming an adjudicator and mentor for the 24:7 theatre festival. Over the years, in addition to drama, Martin has seen more ballet and contemporary dance than is wise for a man with two left feet, and much more opera than any other holder of a Grade 3 certificate in singing.

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Martin Written by Martin Thomasson