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Crooked Dances

“Intriguing but overwrought mystery”

Rain falls, wolves howl in the woods, and a pianist plays an obscure, discordant composition by Erik Satie. Fully embracing an offbeat gothic tone, Crooked Dances is a flawed but beguiling mystery from author Robin French, whose background in comedy writing shines through in passages of observant humour that frequently puncture the show’s stuffier segments.

The story sees lifestyle magazine journalist Katy Porlock pinning her career prospects on an interview with reclusive virtuoso Silvia de Zingaro. Over the course of some excessively drawn-out conversations, mind-bending secrets about music and the nature of time begin to come to light.

It’s an absorbing if occasionally clunky descent into weirdness, held together by a strong and committed cast. Jeany Spark’s highly strung Porlock stands out, a satisfyingly complicated bundle of ambition, predatory assertiveness and twitchy energy.

By contrast, Ruth Lass is stately and austere as pianist De Zingaro, teasing her interviewer with hints of scandalous secrets that obfuscate the occult truths she’s uncovered.

Director Elizabeth Freestone commits to a deliberately slow pace, with each gradually unfolding scene intentionally testing the limits of attention, but building to a devilishly audacious twist.

Max Pappenheim’s moody sound design is omnipresent and oppressive, opening on a blurt of urban noise and later amplifying every incidental sound, from the metronomic ticking of a clock to the shrill interruptions of text-message notifications.

As the characters discuss the complete commitment needed to create art or work magic, this suite of auditory static constantly competes for our attention.

Elizabeth Freestone: ‘I’m trying to make theatre for the 16-year-old I once was’

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Production Details
Production nameCrooked Dances
VenueThe Other Place
StartsJune 20, 2019
EndsJuly 13, 2019
Running time2hrs 35mins
AuthorRobin French
DirectorElizabeth Freestone
Set designerBasia Bińkowska
Lighting designerLauren Watson
Sound designerMax Pappenheim
CastBen Onwukwe, Jeany Spark, Olly Mott, Ruth Lass
Stage managerSophia Dalton
ProducerRoyal Shakespeare Company
VerdictIntriguing if overwrought mystery that explores big themes of music, magic and metaphysics
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Dave Fargnoli

Dave Fargnoli

Dave Fargnoli

Dave Fargnoli

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