Before Homo sapiens there was Neanderthal man. And before Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Attenborough, there was Dr Jacob Bronowski. A Polish Jewish refugee, Bronowski became one of the first intellectuals to achieve TV stardom with his series The Ascent of Man. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which playwright David Byrne cites as one of his biggest inspirations, Yuval Harari argues that sapiens wiped out other human cousins. Of course, Byrne isn’t arguing that television pundits are lethally competitive (though that might make a compelling reality show), but with the company, and co-director Kate Stanley, he has devised a provocative and engaging evening that fleshes out scientific theory onstage by interlocking Dr Bronowski’s story with the meta-story of sapiens – and the story of a one-night stand. Thus, one of Harari’s other central theories, his perspective on relative time – that sapiens’ time has been short compared to life on earth and is not limitless – is demonstrated in just 90 minutes.
To watch 41 very young – and very talented – dancers executing Sharon Eyal’s exacting and precise choreography is to share a life-affirming and exhilarating experience with the rest of the audience and the young company themselves. The Israeli choreographer and Guest Artistic Director at Sadler’s Wells has created a dazzling work for, and with, members of the National Youth Dance Company. They move so seamlessly together that they seem like one coiling, shimmering organism, clad in tight, shiny black bodysuits and boots (the costumes are Eyal’s concept too), their hands and faces caught in the chiaroscuro of Alon Cohen’s stunning lighting. All this is driven by the insistent techno track created by Eyal’s long-time collaborator and pioneer of Israel’s techno scene, Ori Lichtik.