I expected a weird and unusual performance from Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre in their Stravinsky double bill and was not disappointed. It is difficult to take on two of Diaghilev’s most iconic ballets, and the double bill was a mixed bag of drama, dance and sheer theatricality that could excite, shock, annoy, amuse and very occasionally go on for a little too long.

This is an interesting company: they are a mix of dancers and actors who begin each working day with a yoga session. Mikel Murfi and Bernadette Iglich, who spoke during the post-show discussion, described how The Rite of Spring developed from a fortnight in Ireland working on pagan rituals. The rituals were certainly there, ranging from the scape-goat to human sacrifice, and from the annual death of the king to an extremely thorough insemination of mother earth. There was too much material for a short work, but it was nonetheless very powerful right from the first moment when an actor crept out from beneath the curtain to sing a folksong. Symbolism, myth and cliché ran side by side: the men carried around cardboard boxes that contained the masks of predatory animals; a strangely androgynous woman dispensed tea (it’s Ireland) laced with drugs; women turned into hares, and repressed Irish males stripped naked to put on women’s dresses.

Murfi and Iglich explained that the works are always evolving and responding to audiences, and that the company likes to make the audience work to find the meaning. I found this a problem with Petrushka. Their version has only a tenuous link to the original ballet’s plot, but it didn’t, for me, develop its own narrative line, and it left me asking rather pedantic questions, such as why did a man appear at the end wearing only his underpants?

Despite this, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, an entertaining show and a company that I would go to see again. They are undoubtedly serious artists, whose work demands serious attention.

Maggie Watson

17 April 2014

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