Rambert’s Draw from Within, directed by the Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus, is an electric combination of dance and spoken word that captured audiences in live streams during lockdown and now is finally in theatres, ready to send audiences on a 70 minute journey in a world of light and darkness.

Set on a plain stage with a piece of spoken word and very few dancers opening the performance in a mellow and tender way. The opening of the performance, within its softness eases the audience in and does not foretell the layers and the intensity of the story that will soon unfold. The stage is dimly lit, which allows for the dancers to slide inside the shadows of fires they make, or is filled with light from spotlights that accentuate the expressions of the dancers.

In a story that from the beginning gives a lot of room for interpretation the barrier between what is true and what is an illusion or a dream is blurry and the stage transforms multiple times to nurture different stories and magnify experiences, desires or fears of an unknown protagonist. The use of fire, smoke, metal screens and ropes, as well as other changes of the setting help transform the stage and facilitate the expression through dance and acting.

For what feels like a glimpse in a woman’s mind we become observant of people coming in a frenzied dance, embraced by the smoke of the torches they extinguish while around them people seem to disregard them. Othertimes, ropes tighten around a woman who elegantly slips through them, an act of defiance perhaps to the expectation of a submissive female as earlier she is passionately claimed by a male figure. The uses of these instruments help grasp the audience’s attention while also encouraging the imagination to unwind and explore what is the underlying meaning.

At the same time, as simple and humble as it begins, the stage fills with people racing in and out of the spotlight, sometimes joining and other times leaving the main stage and leaving no second unfilled with excitement. The choreography most times is not identical for all dancers, although they are perceived as the narrators of the same story each depicts that story in their own unique way leaving the audience craving for more time with each dancer to attend to their interpretation of the incidents. The choreography most times is intense and demanding and the dancers successfully embody every move and coexist on the stage in a state of harmonious chaos.

Near the end of the performance a hyperrealistic turn of events sends the dancers in a delirium that intensifies and builds up until the protagonist is returned back to reality, visited by white wearing people, in an empty corridor, of what seems to be a mental health facility. The notion of being inside a woman’s subconscious in a hazy hallucination of her life events becomes more obvious which allows for explanation on what was really excessive and what was an aftermath of unbounded trauma and harrowin pain.

Overall, with a cast of brilliant dancers performing a soulful piece, the companion of songs and poetry that compliment and intensify the experience, Draw from Within is a homage to being human, fighting with inner demons and surviving in a world that is filled with absurdity and agony. Maybe a nightmare, or maybe a portrait of a reality, raw and genuine, that dominates the audience until the last minute.