DancePhysical TheatreReviewSouth West

Stepmother/ Stepfather – Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth

Choreographer: Arthur Pita 
Director: Arthur Pita
Reviewer: Sophie Huggins

While fairy tale folklore usually evokes feelings of familiar, reminiscent childhood, there is something not quite so innocent in Arthur Pita’s double bill of subverted storytelling. In collaboration with HeadSpaceDance, the audience is seduced into a dark, physically engaged world where all is not as it seems.

Split into two parts, the first explores many harrowing and dynamic interpretations of the iconic Stepmother role. Walking in, the audience is greeted with a cold image of a still Snow White laid down in a glass box and surrounded by black veiled figures, While a faintly familiar ‘Someday my prince will come’ hums in the background. Many other classical characters are explored in this half such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. However, any preconceived expectations of these tales can be cast aside as Pita has extracted only the gruesome, yet primitive pieces and exploded them for all to see.

The action moves and shifts as fluidly as its illustrative ensemble who all play their parts with a delicate grace and poise. There are impressive physical characterisations from all of the cast and although a monotonous rhythm begins to emerge, this is due to the continuous pace in the musical underscoring, (by Frank Moon), not due to their physicality. While the story is not always clear, the metaphoric imagery, emboldened by the unflinching makeup and costume choices by Yann Seabra, consistently communicates its themes.

In the second part, a more conventional story ensues. Underscored by wonderfully evocative folk punk music, again designed by Frank Moon, Stepfather borders on farce in this vastly exaggerated, playful world. Full of anarchic joy, it is clear the performers are enjoying every movement as they tell the twisted tale of a stepdaughter’s relationship with her new father figure and how they both are infected with a poisonous lust that serves to only overcome them both.

The backdrop of an intricate tapestry, (set designed by Simon Daw), is utilised in imaginative ways and contrasts with the simplicity of the set seen in its counterpart. Also unlike the first half, there is a delightful contrast between light and dark; an aspect that did well to release the tension so expertly built. There is a certain comic appeal that quietly charms the audience and allows them to be transported to disturbing places without realising, much to Pita’s credit.

Orchestrated with many layers, including amplified shadows terrifyingly illuminated on the theatre’s walls, Pita’s tenderly choreographed piece reflects on our ideals of childhood innocence. At 75 minutes in total, this haunting poetic dance of death, violence and sex is beautifully expressed full of many powerful images. While its highlights do tend to lie in its second half, as a full piece, it is distressingly entertaining and will certainly not, as fairy tales suggest, leave you feeling safe.

Runs until 24 Feb 2017 | Image: Contributed

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Distressingly entertaining

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