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Message In A Bottle

Message In A Bottle

A spectacular new dance-theatre show from triple-Olivier Award nominee, Kate Prince, inspired by and set to the iconic hits of 17-time Grammy Award-winning artist Sting, including Every Breath You Take, Roxanne, Walking On The Moon and more. With a mix of exhilarating dance styles, high energy footwork and breath-taking athleticism, Message in a Bottle tells a unifying and uplifting story of humanity and hope. 

It is the latest masterpiece from the ground-breaking creator behind West End hits Some Like it Hip Hop, Into the Hoods, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (choreography) and SYLVIA (Old Vic), and features the astonishing talents of dance storytelling powerhouse, ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company.

The peaceful village of Bebko is alive with joyous celebrations. Suddenly,
under attack, everything changes forever. Three siblings, Leto, Mati and
Tana, must embark on perilous journeys in order to survive.

Contains some scenes of an adult nature.


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Message In A Bottle ON TOUR

Our review on Message In A Bottle

Message In A Bottle - The Lowry, Salford - Thursday 27th July 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

The music of Sting and The Police have seemingly always been a part of my subconscious and have danced through my own little corner of the world.  I can reminisce on those early memories of innocence, fascinated by the idea that an alien had landed in New York and nobody seemed to mind.  Or the naivety that endeared me to believe Every Breath You Take was a song about love, and Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic was about a powerful witch!  The songs have always been there storytelling, and even though I had their narratives muddled as a child, they still engaged me in my own way, and I had the joy of reimagining them all over again as I got older (though discovering the actual story of Every Breath She Takes was a little like discovering Santa wasn’t real!)  These songs excel in storytelling and so naturally lend themselves to a bigger piece of art.  Dance has a life force of its own and bewitches your heart in a unique way, therefore, to bring the songs fresh life and interpretation through Kate Prince’s ZooNation seems to be the perfect combination. 

Message In A Bottle brings us the emotive tale of one family, living in blissful harmony with their community and rejoicing their idyllic being.   Their peaceful lives are turned upside down as the village falls to civil war and the family are faced with impossible choices and stare down harrowing sacrifices for the ones they love.  With no option left but to flee, siblings Leto, Mati and Tana are forced to begin a new chapter, one of survival.  Despite the desperate and dangerous path they now find themselves on, we also glimpse hope and humanity against a backdrop of hate and hostility.  Each sibling is forced down a different road and we witness the repercussions of displacement.   The story tackles many prominent issues such as the refugee crisis, civil war, people trafficking, detention centres, and the loss of life at sea in an attempt to simply secure a safe existence void of fear.  Some will find it, some will not, but all will still carry the trauma with them alongside a paradoxical hope and bond with the family they lost along the way.  Lolita Chakrabarti has worked her dramaturg magic to produce a narrative that will leave you feeling all the feels, and then some!  Add into that the force of life that are the ZooNation dancers, and you won’t know what has hit you.  This is not a tale of politics.  It is an acknowledgment of the real people caught in the crossfire of politics.  The ones who, once upon a time lived a regular life, just like you and I.  It is a stunning piece of art that hands back the dignity of humanity to displaced families.

I honestly don’t know if I can do justice to Message In A Bottle through a written review.  This after all, is a passionate story told through dance, where verbal communication is made entirely redundant to a physical art form that speaks volumes without uttering a single word.  You are absorbed into the pulsating heartbeat and rhythm of the characters through jaw droppingly talented dancers, and willingly immersed into a new dimension of art that defies everything you thought you knew.  This is unlike anything else I have ever seen and my mind is in overdrive trying to process it.  Ninja dancers, wizards of beat, mystical movers relentlessly present agility, flips, grace, twists, acrobatics, lyrical, hip hop, krumping, breakdancing, ballet.  You name it, they do it, and then some.  Breath taking moves I have never seen before appear effortlessly, and with a seamlessly blended flow of solo, partner work, small group and cast ensemble pieces, this adds further testament to the power of ZooNation.

It is no wonder director and choreographer Kate Prince is an MBE.  Her vision, commitment, desire to break boundaries and to inspire the next generation of theatre goers is beyond evident in Message In A Bottle through the inspiring, relevant, and passionate performances.  Using the multi award-winning music of Sting as your score is genius, and with outstanding new arrangements by Alex Lacamoire (The Greatest Showman, Hamilton) these songs have been given a new lease of life and are both instantly recognisable yet entirely fresh and exciting.  They are given new flavours, including soul, jazz, theatrical, and reggae, and some are echoed throughout, each time with a subtle new twist to entice your heart to adapt to the current of the story.  With Sting himself singing the majority of songs, and Beverley Knight and Lynval Golding as guest vocalists, these haunting melodies will evoke just about every emotion you can imagine.

Andrzej Goulding (video designer), Natasha Chivers (lighting designer) and Anna Fleischle (costume designer) beautifully blend their own talents to offer stunning visuals, such as the interactive effects of shadowed silhouettes that whisp on the edge of the siblings memories with both hope and trauma.  Dancers jump and create a shadow that remains mid pose, or the shadows pose as the ghosts of troubled minds.  Images of their past appear on a screen, which is also projected as a bed, so that they represent dreams and nightmares tormenting the soul.  Elsewhere, rippling lights combine with sheet projections of rain and costumes that have the bottom half coloured blue and waved, suddenly mean more than community colours, as they also become the waves in a devastating scene at sea.  And as time runs out, so does the large over head sun, which doubles as an egg timer and pours sand down onto the stage as the dancers are helpless to stop it. 

The company of dancers defy superlatives!  They set their own standard, and then even smash that!  They are dancers, actors, storytellers and possibly even alchemists!  This ensures that the interpretation of songs is not only easy to follow, but feels like they were written for this show alone.  Desert Rose is a joyful and uplifting celebration of community, Every Little Thing She Does Is magic plays out a relationship from first sight to marriage.  Don’t Stand So Close To Me depicts soldiers intimidating and abusing women through their insidious power, Every Breath You Take represents the oppressive guards of the detention centre as we watch the siblings desperately trying to reach out for each other whilst being torturously kept apart.  I honestly could go on and on as an impressive 27 songs make an appearance, but I appreciate I’ve got to keep something back for everyone to discover for themselves. 

Message In A Bottle will take you on an emotional journey and make you catch your breath, often at surprising moments.  It will evoke joy, passion, loss, grief, love, sacrifice, heartache, unfairness, belonging, community, trauma, and hope.  Hope opens the show and closes it too.  Hope that life can go on, that love can be the most powerful of forces, and hope that no matter whatever else can be taken from us at the hands of other humans, our bonds, our love and our memories cannot.  


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