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The Troth review at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London – ‘evocative and poignant dance theatre’

Gary Clark's The Troth at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Photo: Simon Richardson

In the First World War, 60,000 soldiers of undivided India died serving the British Army. Their sacrifice for the British Empire, at least outside of India, is not widely remembered.

Gary Clark’s The Troth tells this story via a retelling of Usne Kaha Tha – a Hindi short story that tells the tale of soldier Lehna Singh, a man who gave his own life to save the son and husband of the woman he loved.

Clark’s production resembles a silent movie. It places its fusion of contemporary and Kathak dance against a backdrop of archive film footage. As the dancers react to and echo moments from the footage behind them, history becomes more tangible.

Clark’s naturalistic approach to his contemporary choreography sits comfortably with the gestural language of Kathak. Moving from the streets of India to the wartime trenches, the dancer’s actions evoke a sense of camaraderie and physical hardship.

The five male dancers are accompanied by Vidya Patel, finalist of BBC Young Dancer 2015, in the role of Leela – the woman Lenha loves. Patel is a truly engaging and expressive performer.

As the only woman in the story, she is a reminder of those left behind – the suffering that took place away from, as well as on, the battlefield.

Through its simple approach, The Troth offers an emotive, engaging and poignant tribute to a country’s sacrifice.

How Akademi’s touring show The Troth is saluting India’s wartime sacrifice through dance

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Gary Clark’s new evocative and poignant work of dance theatre