Writer: Robin French
Director: Elizabeth Freestone
Reviewer: James Garrington
It is generally recognised that music can transport you away from the mundane and towards somewhere more mysterious. Listening to certain music – in the right setting, in the right frame of mind and surrounded by the right atmosphere – can provide an experience that is almost spiritual.
Is it possible that music is actually capable of doing more than that though? If so, how far can it go, and can we control it?
Katy Porlock is a journalist, desperate for a big break. She’s been overshadowed by a high-flier with the right personal connections to get all the plum jobs – so today Katy’s on the morning Eurostar heading to Paris for an interview with a once-famous concert pianist, Silvia de Zingaro. Things don’t go entirely to plan – first, the interview is moved from Paris to a small village further south, then when she finally manages to talk to Silvia the interview ends in disaster. Snooping around she finds that Silvia has a collection of mystical books and a fascination for the music of Erik Satie – so when a missed train leads to a night-time encounter between the two women, Katy hopes she can finally get her scoop after all.
This premiere of Crooked Dances feels like a play of two halves. The first half is a well-written, cosy and engaging piece about characters and relationships, about a journalist struggling to make a living for a print publication in an increasingly digital world – though throughout our attention is drawn to the clock on the wall. Then after the interval, the feel of the piece changes dramatically as we delve into the world of science fiction and mysterious and mystical Societies. It’s all a bit Dan Brown, perfectly good for those who enjoy that sort of storyline, but in danger of losing the interest of those who don’t – even though large parts of the background have a basis in the reality of Erik Satie’s life.
One thing that cannot be faulted is the acting, which is very strong throughout. Jeany Spark’s Katy Porlock comes across well as a journalist who’s slightly too desperate the get her story, accompanied by Olly Mott as her overly-gauche and clumsy photographer Nick. Spark’s transition from desperation through confusion to anxiety and almost terror, in particular, is very nicely judged. Ruth Lass is entirely believable as fading French concert pianist Silvia de Zingaro, with a well-pitched performance too from Ben Onwukwe as her manager Denis.
As the play progresses it delves deeper into the occult, the mysterious and the spiritual. It is extremely intense and often compelling viewing, and whether or not you believe in the nature of the occult, there is much here to enjoy – but also possibly the stuff of nightmares for the more nervous audience member.
Runs Until 13 July 2019 | Image: Ellie Kurtz (c) The RSC