By: Mar. 04, 2017
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Arthur Pita returns to The Place with the dark but thrilling double bill Stepmother/Stepfather. Stepfather is a revisit of the work Pita first created in 2007 for Candoco Dance. He was approached by HeadSpaceDance to support a full evening's work and felt it would be the perfect time to resurrect this tale of selfishness, incest and murder.

The evening is preceded by Stepmother, a new piece acting as a "sister" work to the more established one. Stepmother is a gruesome romp through a number of much-loved tales. There's plenty of sweeping black costumes, skull caps and stark black make-up that makes for a fantastically theatrical piece, but it could benefit from some smoother transitions between the different stories to keep the narrative clear.

Stepmother certainly starts out boldly enough, as the audience is met with Snow White (Corey Claire Annand, who plays The Ingénue and is brutally bullied in her many guises) laid out in a coffin surround by some eerie figures of death upon entering the theatre. The musical accompaniment of "One Day My Prince Will Come" is a nicely chilling touch.

The gruesome Stepmother ensemble wander about in their chunky heeled boots, all-encompassing black robes and masks of white stage make-up. Annand is cruelly disrobed as Snow White before being returned to her coffin; she fares no better as Rapunzel as her hair is roughly snipped before her, her grief plain to see, white face a picture of vulnerable innocence. Pita is enjoying making us feel uncomfortable here.

Just as the Stepmothers seem appeased there is another startling image, one of Hansel and Gretel, whose eyes are remorselessly plucked from their faces. The interludes of the Stepmothers between the narrative do not particularly add to the story, nonetheless these androgynous figures are hugely entertaining, especially seeing the male cast negotiate their high-heeled platforms - which they do admirably.

Stepfather, at first, appears a far more upbeat story with the catchy folk-punk accompaniment of the Violent Femmes. But don't be fooled: this is a perversely twisted tale, as Pita's tongue is firmly in his cheek. Karl Fagerland-Brekke is the Stepfather, a jaded family man who struggles to accept the sudden inheritance of his attractive new stepdaughters. They dance and skip merrily about to the pleasure of their mother and family scenes are depicted where they are all seen to give their stepfather a wholesome goodnight kiss. Nathan Goodman also features as an snake-hipped barman who keeps an eye on proceedings and joins the narrative together well with his quirky solos and broad grin.

Clemmie Sveaas is the forceful and persuasive wayward daughter who goes to great lengths to set up the incestuous relationship behind her family's back. Pita's choreography and staging here strikes a good balance between humour, the grim story and the tender family moments depicted, enabling difficult content to become digestible for the audience. Pita's powerful imagery is present throughout, the most impactful of all that of the hanging stepfather as the stepdaughter wraps herself around his body, the rope swinging peacefully from side to side before the curtain falls.

It all sounds a little heavy, but Pita's skill makes this macabre evening strangely enjoyable, even if it feels wrong to admit it.

Stepmother/Stepfather at The Place until 11 March

Photo Credit: Ambra Venuccio