Reviewed by Tim Garratt
With a music career spanning six decades, Sting has achieved astonishing global success. He has 17 Grammy Awards to his name and over 100 million record sales, and his critically acclaimed Australian tour earlier this year played to sell-out crowds across the country.
This weekend, at the Sydney Opera House’s Joan Sutherland Theatre, fans have the chance to see a sizeable slice of his back catalogue (both solo cuts and hits from his days fronting The Police) bought to life in a stunning dance-theatre work, aptly titled Message in a Bottle.
Message in a Bottle is the work of award-winning British choreographer Kate Prince, Artistic Director of the London-based ZooNation Dance Company, and highlights the plight of refugees (according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2022, 108.4 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced from their homes).
Specifically, the show tells the story of three siblings, who are separated from their parents when conflict arrives on their doorstep and who, as a result, embark on a dangerous journey to foreign lands to begin their lives over. Each of the siblings first must navigate immigration bureaucracies before having to grapple with a range of challenges that arise as they endeavour to embrace life in their adopted homelands.
While the piece is a vivid reminder of the terrible situations in which refugees find themselves, Message in a Bottle is also a celebration of human resilience; of the ability to persevere in the toughest of times and to overcome seemingly insuperable challenges.
Message in a Bottle is compelling and enormously satisfying dance theatre. Performed by a hugely talented and wholly committed and invested dance troupe, it engrosses us from the get-go, forcing us to become totally engaged in the narrative. Hip-hop and contemporary dance movement is wonderfully fused with well-considered acting choices, resulting in consistently clear and affecting storytelling.
That Sting’s music should offer such rich musical accompaniment to such a politically charged piece of theatre will likely come as no surprise to his fans – human rights activism is something with which he has long been synonymous. Some of the tracks are instantly recognisable while others have been reimagined (by music supervisor Alex Lacamoire), with Sting having even recorded new vocals for some songs. The tracks are shrewdly woven together across the show’s two Acts, and it’s a joy to witness their recontextualisation.
Also noteworthy here are the excellent design elements. Video projections (by Ben Stones) are carefully incorporated at key moments and lighting choices (by Natasha Chivers) are thoughtful, ensuring these aspects never take focus away from the performers, instead enhancing the impact of their gesture and dance movement.
Whether you’re a Sting fan, a dance fan or even a general theatre fan, Message in a Bottle offers a moving, memorable and meaningful experience. This is highly recommended.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE – EVENT DETAILS
Dates: Now playing until 29 October 2023
Where: Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Price: From $89.00 + booking fee
To purchase tickets, click here
Photo Credit: Daniel Boud