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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Akram Khan on Creature, climate change and updating ‘racist’ Rudyard Kipling

Instead, they turned to Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, deciding to turn that 1830s play – about a lonely soldier who agrees to undergo dehumanising medical experiments – into something very modern. And, although the new work’s Arctic setting remains (partially as a nod to Frankenstein’s icebound climax), it is also central to the reworked story.

“The Arctic is our last frontier, packed with minerals and resources,” says Khan. The Russians have been there for years, by the way, and they’ve been very smart. They’ve studied it, and they’ve seen how soldiers can survive there and so on. So, we decided to base it in the Arctic where there’s this army barracks if you like, or an experiment bunker.”

In fact, Khan originally had some of his characters wearing masks when they stepped outside, but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe everybody has to wear a mask.’ So, we decided we’re not going to wear masks, because people would immediately go, ‘oh, is this about Covid?’, and it’s not.”

The piece is partly a veiled critique of the billionaire space race at a time when the whole planet is under threat. “There’s an instability in the climate and the air, and so Creature is being tested with suits and helmets to see if he can survive the outside temperature and toxicity. If the doctor succeeds in being able to make him survive, then they have a chance and they’re going to head off – without Creature, inevitably.

But is the lead character – to be danced by quicksilver ENB principal Jeffrey Cirio –  actually human?  “He is human, very much human,” Khan confirms. “If anything, he represents the majority of the world, the ones who are powerless.”

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