Review: Babylon at The Albany ★★★

Review: Babylon at The Albany ★★★

It’s great to be back in The Albany’s distinctive theatre space, but despite some beautiful moments, Quang Kien Van’s Babylon feels like a work in progress.

Babylon | The Albany | 18-20 October 2023

Our local theatre in Deptford, The Albany, has been accumulating some cobwebs recently – for whatever reason, programming in the main space has dwindled to the point where it can be s (pleasant) surprise to discover that there’s actually something on! For a theatre which makes a claim to being South East London’s leading arts centre, we really hope 2024 sees a return to more regular shows and performances.

Given the relative rarity of something to see, we jumped at the chance to catch Quang Kien Van’s Babylon, a dance-gig exploration of the creation and destruction found in nature and human lives. Dancers Yu-Chien Chang and Laura Lorenzi take centre stage with undeniably impressive choreography, dancing to the mesmerising live musical accompaniment of Femi Oriogun-Willliams and Bianca Fung.

Whilst the four performers are all excellent, there’s a disconnect between the dance and the music which is only underlined by the decision to keep Oriogun-Williams and Fung off to one side of the stage. At times, their musical offering is the real star of the show, but to watch them is to ignore the two dancers whose centrality to the show feels imposed upon the audience.

Perhaps Babylon could best described as an interesting failed experiment – the components are individually strong, but the piece doesn’t come together. There’s a 30 minute dance show here, or a 45 minute gig – but the combination results in an hour which feels all of its 60 minutes.

There are moments, though, where it’s all worth it: some sublime covers from Oriogun-Williams and Fung deserve to find Spotify playlist fame, and You-Chien and Lorenzi give it their all. Unfortunately, the sum of those moments doesn’t quite justify the whole.