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Arthur Pita’s Stepmother/Stepfather review at the Place, London – ‘unsettling and ingenious’

Arthur Pita’s fairytale double-bill revels in the dark side of human nature.

A macabre medley of fairytales, Stepmother features the petite, innocent-looking Corey Claire Annand as The Ingenue. From Snow White, to Rapunzel, to one half of Hansel and Gretel, she serves as a puppet for the twisted actions of a stream of stepmothers. Her maltreatment is discomforting and often gory – cannibalism is a disturbingly recurrent theme.

Yann Seabra’s androgynous costume design – long, black-leather coats, heeled boots and painted, mask-like faces – creates a stylised, gothic aesthetic that adds to the sense of oddity as each grotesque scenario unfolds.

The gritty twang of the Violent Femmes’ Country Death Song sets the dark, unsettling tone for the second piece, Stepfather. A tale of incest, murder and suicide, Stepfather pushes the limits of what feels comfortable. Karl Fagerlund Brekke is the convincingly de-railed stepfather; Christopher Akrill his counterpart from beyond the grave. The interplay between them allows for a wry reflection on madness – a complement to the devilish streak of humour that worms its way through this disquieting dance piece.

Throughout Stepfather the company’s characterisation is perfectly pitched. Their over-expressive interpretation of Pita’s quirky choreography serves to enhance its sinister qualities.

Despite the darkness, Stepfather is a lively, entertaining work. It closes with an eerie, yet beautiful duet between Fagerlund Brekke and murdered stepdaughter Clemmie Sveaas. While the stylised tone of Stepmother makes for delectably grim entertainment, the pseudo-realism of Stepfather is often more difficult to digest – and it’s uncomfortably brilliant for it.

 

Verdict
An ingeniously nightmarish and disturbingly dark fairytale double-bill

Production Information

Production
Stepmother/Stepfather
Venue
The Place
City
London
Starts
March 2, 2017
Ends
March 11, 2017
Press night
March 2, 2017
Composer
Gordon Gano, Gabriel Faure, Glen Rehse, Richard A Whiting, Felix Mendelssohn, Wal Berg
Choreographer
Arthur Pita
Lighting
Mark Doubleday
Sound
Frank Moon
Costume
Yann Seabra
Technical
Leon Smith (technical stage manager)
Production manager
Aniela Zaba
Cast includes
Nadia Adame, Christopher Akrill, Corey Claire Annand, Karl Fagerlund Brekke, Valentina Golfieri, Nathan Goodman, Clemmie Sveaas
Producer
Arthur Pita, Head Space Dance
Running time
1hr 35mins