Review: Ali and Alpo at Summerhall

A deeply powerful show, this intimate, melancholy performance by Finnish dancer Alpo Aaltokoski and Iraqi oud player Ali Alawad is mesmeric and overwhelming.

The piece opens a dialogue between Finnish and Iraqi cultures and explores Ali’s painful journey in fleeing his country and seeking asylum. In a painful, real-life twist Ali was forced, just weeks before the show began, to flee Finland to avoid deportation and so appears only as a haunting, wraith-like presence, a projection onto a transparent cloth pinned to the ceiling and floating to the right of the stage.

His liminality as a refugee is therefore made actual and contrasts intensely with Alpo’s graven-faced presence on stage.  Ali’s beautiful, tragic singing takes the audience to another world, as Alpo contorts and twist. The effect is both meditative and cathartic, creating an emotional wave that is almost pre-language in its immediacy and intensity. Intuitive and dynamic lighting helps turn the bare stage into a surreal, dream-like space where motion and music communicate directly across linguistic and cultural barriers. A rare and beautiful experience not to be missed.

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