National Ballet’s "MADDADDAM"
It may not entirely reinvent the wheel, but it certainly ruptures conventions
WORDS BY ERIN BALDWIN | Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts | Toronto
NOV 23, 2022 | COMMUNITY
Siphesihle November and Jason Ferro in Wayne McGregor’s MADDADDAM. Photo by Bruce Zinger. Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada.
Christopher Gerty and Tanya Howard in Wayne McGregor’s MADDADDAM. Photo by Bruce Zinger. Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada.
Artists of the Ballet in Wayne McGregor’s MADDADDAM. Photo by Karolina Kuras. Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada.
Distorted computer-generated voiceovers and an orchestral score that frequently collapses into static and reverb. A sparse black stage scattered with dancers under piercing spotlights. Video projections that juxtapose wolves gnawing at a carcass with the familiar, brightly coloured images of commodity culture. Welcome to the apocalyptic world of MADDADDAM, the jarring full-length ballet spectacle inspired by legendary Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction, engineered by the visionary choreographer Wayne McGregor, and brought to life by a daring ensemble cast from the National Ballet of Canada (NBoC).
MADDADDAM, the NBoC’s third co-production with London’s The Royal Ballet, features an all-star lineup: McGregor is a ballet darling known for his innovative shorter works – Chroma and Genus – while his frequent collaborator, the composer Max Richter, is to classical music what McGregor is to dance, acclaimed globally for his eclectic contemporary scores. Mix in source material from Atwood’s dystopian MaddAddam trilogy, and you’d expect to have a masterpiece. Indeed, partnering with the Royal Ballet to gain access to new work by McGregor — their resident choreographer — and Richter, was a brilliant business move, as was securing the world premiere for Canadian audiences in Toronto.
But anyone who has seen a movie cast with Hollywood legends fizzle at the box office knows that nothing is guaranteed. The disparate parts need to be assembled into a cohesive whole and a reputation for greatness doesn't necessarily equate to execution. Fortunately, for both dance enthusiasts and general audiences, everyone more than showed up here, delivering what will undoubtedly emerge as one of NBoC’s landmark productions for years to come.
Ben Rudisin, Christopher Gerty and Jenna Savella in Wayne McGregor’s MADDADDAM. Photo by Karolina Kuras. Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada
Split into three distinctive acts, MADDADDAM is an abstract adaptation of Atwood’s novels, less plot-driven and more focused on broadly exploring her central themes of technological innovation gone awry, the relentless and destructive pursuit of power, and ecological catastrophe. Act I begins with a montage video of societal collapse projected onto a semi-transparent screen covering the entirety of the stage: buildings crumble to the ground and anarchists move through a battle zone as an eclectically-dressed assortment of dancers behind move languidly to the rising, elegiac strains of Richter’s score.