A deliciously dark double-bill
In a new commission by DanceEast, award-winning Director and Choreographer Arthur Pita, in collaboration with HeadSpaceDance, presents a wicked, darkly surreal double bill of dance.
Stepmother leads us into a menacing world where macabre folklore meets murder, lust and latex. Fairy tales distort into nightmares as familiar characters from Snow White to Hansel and Gretel are pursued by a force of monstrous and abusive stepmothers.
Stepfather tells the grisly tale of a twisted family situation, inspired by the folk-punk ‘Country Death Song’ from cult American band Violent Femmes. Spiralling into a hellish world of incest and murder, the search for redemption is played out beyond the grave.
★★★★ ‘All horribly entertaining. A very dark treat indeed.’
‘once tongue-in-cheek and eye-poppingly over-the-top’
Arthur Pita’s recent international sell-out success includes: The Metamorphosis at the Royal Opera House, Linbury Theatre which won the South Bank Award, National Dance Award and an Olivier Award nomination; Facada for Russian ballet stars Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev (London, New York, Moscow) and The Little Match Girl, which returns to Sadler’s Wells for its third year running.
Stepmother/Stepfather review – all horribly entertaining!
Arthur Pita’s latest is a little bit Snow White, a little bit Hellraiser
Arthur Pita is one of today’s most original choreographic voices. He’s an accomplished fashioner of dances, but it’s his imaginative storytelling that sets him apart from his contemporaries. His 2011 production of Kafa’s The Metamorphosis was mesmerisingly weird, The Little Match Girl (2013) was touching and magical, and Facada (2014) was a blackly comedic tale that saw Natalia Osipova dancing dementedly on her faithless lover’s grave. Pita’s latest venture, Stepmother/ Stepfather, is a splendidly perverse double bill, tailored to the exceptional talents of the performer ensemble HeadSpaceDance. Stepfather, a cheery tale of murder, incest and suicide, was created by Pita in 2007 and originally stood alone. Stepmother is a new work that rejoices in the crueller and more bizarre aspects of fairytale.
It opens on a memorable tableau. Six figures in floor-length black latex, like the Cenobites in the Hellraiser films, surround a glass coffin. A Snow White figure (Corey Claire Annand) is awakened and handed a red apple by a terrifying stepmother (Chris Akrill) in a ruby crown and diamante corset. Then Akrill plucks out her heart. And so begins a gothic tale whose plot slips and slides with the irrational logic of nightmare. Stepmothers are archetypal characters in gothic fairy stories, as they personify the traumatic rupture of the family and the end of the security and happiness embodied by the mother they replace. Pita’s ballet, set to an ominous sound score by Frank Moon, presents a multiplicity of stepmothers, all of them vengeful. Jonathan Goddard, in a hideous knitted wig, is especially grotesque, chopping off Annand’s Rapunzel pigtail before pacing the stage and flagellating himself with it. Children meekly submit to bloody, symbolic horrors.
The piece is at once tongue-in-cheek and eye-poppingly over-the-top. Stepfather is less ceremonial and more dance-based. The plot is drawn from a real-life 19th-century case in which a man was convicted of murdering his stepdaughter by throwing her down a well. The story inspired the US folk-punk band Violent Femmes to write Country Death Song, to which Pita sets his piece. Goddard is superlatively creepy as Eugene, the stepfather. His dancing is boneless and low-slung, its raw power giving the lie to his cringing manner. Seeing his artlessly sexy stepdaughter Mary Lou (Clemmie Sveaas), he stares at her with the glittery-eyed purpose of a hungry iguana. The seduction duet is constructed with lethal brilliance, he wary but relentless in his advance, she giddily lubricious. It’s all horribly entertaining, and Pita’s deft direction keeps things moving with a swing, but the piece loses focus in the final minutes. That’s correctable, however, and by the time it tours next year, it promises to be a very dark treat indeed.