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Message in a Bottle at Peacock Theatre - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Emotive Dance Show About Refugees With Songs From Sting
Message In A Bottle features Sting's songs as the soundtrack to an impactful storyline about refugees that has the power to move, both emotionally and politically - here's why.

Message in a bottle, dance show, peacock theatre, London, sting music, beverley knight
A dance show about refugees set to the music of Sting


Combining hip hip, ballet and contemporary dance, Message In A Bottle has been created by choreographer and life-long Sting fan Kate Prince. The dance show is on at London's Peacock Theatre until March 21 ahead of a tour to The Lowry in Salford and Birmingham Hippodrome.

Prince is already known for her hip hop work as artistic director at ZooNation with acclaimed Into the Hoods and Some Like It Hip Hop to her name - and this show will only boost her reputation beyond that genre.

The show follows three siblings as war erupts in their village and they have to flee, losing each other in the process. Their journeys feature tough themes from sexual violence to imprisonment in camps, portrayed purely through vibrant dance routines of hip hop, breakdance and contemporary dance.

message in a bottle, peacock theatre, zoonation, Kate Prince, sting
Despair and also hope is in this impressive show


There's an authenticity to the show that comes from Prince using documentaries and newspaper articles as background material, which she made the dancers look at too.

The realistic nature of the show paid off as one woman from a documentary they watched Rania Mustafa Ali came to see the opening night and told the dancers how touching it was for her.

Ali filmed her escape from Syria on a mobile phone, which was later aired by The Guardian as Rania's Odyssey. Rania's story was even the basis for the youngest sister's storyline in Message In A Bottle, so it meant a lot to the cast to hear her approval.

Lukas Mcfarlane, message in a bottle, zoonation, dance, sting
Lukas McFarlane dancing in Message In A Bottle


Message In A Bottle features 28 iconic hits by Sting, which he re-recorded with totally new arrangements to help them fit with the tone and mood of the plot. Music includes classics like Every Breath You Take, Roxanne, Walking On The Moon, Englishman In New York and Shape Of My Heart as never heard before.

While Beverley Knight recorded new spine-tingling interpretations of Fields Of Gold, Invisible Sun and If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. There's even Lynval Golding, rhythm guitarist and vocalist from The Specials, appearing on track The Bed's Too Big Without You.

message in a bottle, peacock theatre, london
Cleverly choreographed scenes in the show


There's a large and talented young cast whose energy and dance moves on the stage are hugely impressive. They including dancer Lukas McFarlane, who won Sky 1's Got To Dance in 2013 at the age of 19, and Tommy Franzen, a runner-up in So You Think You Can Dance and award-winner for his roles in Some Like It Hip Hop and The Rodin Project.

Feeling a personal bond with each of the siblings, the audience follows each one on a different journey with the music and lyrics conveying a message on another level.

Sting's biggest hit Every Breath You Take is saved for a heart-wrenching routine when the siblings are split apart while trying to flee to safety while Message In A Bottle is a stirring, energetic group number to take the audience into the interval.

Canadian McFarlane, who has worked as a music industry choreographer for Taylor Swift and Celine Dion, has one of the most memorable routines in The Bed's Too Big Without You, when he dances with digital shadows beamed on to his bed.

He's also at his most emotive through songs Roxanne and So Lonely as his character battles with what has happened to his wife during the war.

Sting, Kate Prince, Message In A Bottle, Peacock Theatre, London
Sting with choreographer Kate Prince


Sting has described watching a workshop of the show with his music as "very emotional", adding that "there was something happening at a deeper level, of understanding".

Seeing the show, you can understand what he felt as it is hugely emotive and powerful, bringing you to or near tears at many points.

Mixing between a range of dance genres, there's a freshness and vibrancy on stage throughout the 1 hour 50 minute show.

The result is a compelling character-led story that is incredibly moving and lays bare the struggles of refugees - but with a optimistic, hopeful finale.

This show moves you to want to do more to help and that's why it's one of the most important dance shows that you'll see this year. Catch it while you can.

Rating:

Message In A Bottle has been brought to stage by Sadler's Wells and Universal Music UK with co-producers Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry.
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Why? Powerful and emotive dance at its best
When: Until March 21 in London, then Lowry in Salford and Birmingham Hippodrome on tour
Phone: Search Results 020 7863 8222
Where: Peacock Theatre, Portugal St, Holborn, London, WC2A 2HT
Cost: From 14
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