Choreographed by Liv Lorent and the dancers, music by Andy Ross, written and narrated by Ben Crompton
Dance City, Newcastle
Newcastle is well served with Christmas shows this year: two pantos (at the Theatre Royal and Journal Tyne Theatre) and two plays for children (Thumbelina and The Little Prince at Northern Stage). Now balletLORENT has added what they call their "first work exclusively with professional dancers dedicated to children and family audiences".
It's a collaborative work between the dance company, the composer, the writer, set designer Phil Eddolls and costume designer Paul Shriek (to which should be added the very effective lighting of Malcolm Rippeth), and uses an eclectic mix of dance styles (from pointe work to bodypopping!), aerial dance and storytelling.
It's a fairy story and, like all the best fairy stories, has its dark side, although, as we expect, everything comes right in the end. This is how the company describes it:
Pippanouska is a shadow of the happy child she once was. In the library where she works a band of regular customers come to seek solace and take refuge from the real world. But their lives are about to undergo a breathtaking transformation when they encounter the Angelmoth, an ethereal butterfly-like creature who leads them on a fantastical journey of escapism and wonder...
There's Madeline who has some darkness in her past and hangs on grimly to her daughter Lydia; there's Joe who loves Lydia (and she loves him); there's the misfit Oswald. Their lives are changed by the arrival of a Stranger and the Angelmoth who lead them into a strange land where they meet the Siren, who tries to lure them to a watery grave, and the Boy, whose presence both explains and cures Madeline's unhappiness and allows her to free Lydia to be herself and join with the man she loves, Joe.
There are dangers to be overcome and a monster to resist; there's loss and finding again; there's sadness turned to happiness; there's magic: all the ingregients of a fairytale.
The setting is a dark, very old-fashioned - almost gothic - library with, at the back, a huge picture frame which becomes the doorway into the world of the Angelmoth. The dancers work at a variety of heights: on the floor, on the table, on a balcony, even converting a small set of library steps into a seesaw using a long ladder, on the raised level behind the picture frame, and, of course, in the air.
It's a short piece (just over thirty minutes in the first half and little more than forty in the second) and certainly kept the children in the audience transfixed: the young daughter of a friend asked me eagerly at the end, "What was your favourite bit?" Adults, however, may find the rather portentous - indeed melodramatic - narration a little too much and some of the individual dancers' solo spots were perhaps a little too long and even a tad self-indulgent, but they never lost the audience's attention. Even in our technologically advanced and visually sophisticated times, the fairy story still works its magic!
Reviewer: Peter Lathan