Aakash Odedra presented a version of Murmur in London at the Linbury Studio Theatre in January this year as part of a double bill. Its fusion of Indian classical dance and contemporary forms and its striking projections combined to offer a commentary on Odedra’s struggles with his dyslexia. The work has now been revised as Murmur 2.0, extending the running time from 35 to 52 minutes and is here presented on its own. It’s an expansion rather than a substantial reworking, but that expansion loses some of the tight focus and purposefulness of the earlier version. It’s nevertheless an impressive and committed solo performance from Odedra, supported by arresting projections from Ars Electronica Futurelab.
The setting is simple, consisting of a circle of electric fans, with fine white curtains hanging down among them. There is a substantial list of collaborators. The choreography is by Odedra and Lewis Major. The music is by Nicki Wells, and lighting design by Andrew Ellis. The design and programming of the projections are credited to a team of no less than eight people.
Odedra appears at first seated, counting and beating out time on his knees, to a whispered accompaniment about mistakes and how long they take to fix. He shakes projections of a flock of birds free from the white drapes then retreats behind them to draw an A on them with projected blobs of blue light. The projections continue to mimic his moves as he dances behind the drapes. Although they are striking they don’t have all the fine detail of Odedra’s movements and some of the essence of the speed of his spins and the fluency of his arms is rather lost, though the force of his dives to the floor are captured well.
He pulls the drapes down to make them form two letter As on the floor and explains to us that his dyslexia was so severe it was not until he was 21 that he realised that there was a double A in his first name. But even as he does so, his feet beat out complex Indian rhythyms, illustrating his innate facility with dance even though the written word was a struggle. The A in his name becomes a symbol. “When I find that A, I find a sense of control”. He swirls through circles of illumination projected on the floor, in kathak- style turns so rapid that his arms form blurs of light.
Sheets of paper begin to fall from above. The first of these has an A written on it but all the rest are blank. They fall faster and faster. He scans them for meaning but can’t see any. He struggles to pick them up as they are blasted into a vortex by the surrounding circle of fans. Finally he panics because he has lost the original sheet with its A. “I don’t feel balanced without it” he tells us as he dips into a perfectly controlled headstand.
The projections now take the forms of flocks of birds, a murmuration of starlings perhaps, with their sudden shifts of flight. Odedra dances, his body catching fragments of light as yet more paper falls, now in shreds which turn to glittering stars as they pass through the beams. It looks stunning and appears to offer some kind of resolution.
Odedra undoubtedly feels passionate about dyslexia and has commented on it in a number of articles. He a persuasive and likeable performer and succeeds here in making what might seem an unlikely subject into a compelling account of struggle and wonder.