Scholarly, artistic and professional, Avid for Ovid’s highly original creative work was on show in a series of performances as part of the Ashmolean’s wildly popular sell-out DeadFriday Halloween happening.

Accompanied by Malcolm Atkins, dancers Susie Crow, Marie-Louise Crawley and Ségolène Tarte used Roman pantomime to explore the grief and horror of death. As we sat on the floor of the Cast Gallery, a line of candles marking the edge of the performance area like footlights, we saw expressions of human and beyond-human emotion, the quality of each experience being powerfully affected by whether or not the dancers wore masks. Crow, who was unmasked, gave a profoundly moving portrayal of Aurora grieving for her son Memnon that fell firmly within the range of human empathy. On the other hand, when the dancers wore masks, Crawley’s dread-inspiring transformation into a tree and Tarte’s terrifying embodiment of a werewolf seemed almost to pierce the veil that hangs between the natural and the supernatural.

Among the academic papers, craft workshops, musical performances and a theatrical re-enactment of a Roman funeral, Avid for Ovid evoked both pity and terror in its audience: the ultimate Halloween experience.

Maggie Watson

1 November 2015

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