Review: Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot - The Tempest Replica - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 25 & 26 April 2014
Reviewed by Jeffrey Gordon Baker - Wednesday 30 April 2014

Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot -'The Tempest Replica' Photo: Ambra Vernuccio

Canadian native (and Sadler’s Wells newest Associate Artist) Crystal Pite and her company Kidd Pivot have served up a spirited deconstruction of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The Tempest Replica is complete with strobe effects, projected animation and other super slick production elements, not to mention a cast of compelling, high-stamina movers.

Figures encased in white, with even their heads occluded by opaque cages of armature, act out the basic story in quick sketches or renderings of the plot’s skeletal points. There are even titles to let you know which Act and Scene they’re on in case you don’t already know the story. In interviews Pite has likened this section to a kind of architect’s model of the story structure. During these bits only Prospero is seen in plain clothes, portrayed by a relatively understated Eric Beauchesne; the magician is seen manipulating the characters and story like the paper boats he is making on the side of the stage when the piece begins. It is surprisingly interesting to watch the dancers move in their blanked-out garb, and it is to their credit that they all seemed capable of articulating and exacting sharply precise movements, even thus mummified.

What follows these cool and sleek abstract passages are a series of solos and group scenes, the apparent intention of which is to fill in the white schematic canvas so to speak, adding flesh and depth to selected characters and themes through the introduction of a richer scenographic palette, some random genre elements (a doorbell, evening wear), and ostensibly choreography as well. And there is plenty of choreography on display, much of it evincing maturity and attention to the character-evoking possibilities of shape, length and tempo. A raucous party scene full of weight exchanges and swift interchanges of position felt fresh and vibrant; and a late duet between Miranda ( Cindy Salgado ) and the prince ( Yannick Matthon ) was as romantic, loving and delicately erotic as anything one could imagine in a story ballet. But herein lies the rub.

To attempt what Pite has with her Tempest ‘replica’, requires a design and dramaturgical brain as much as a choreographic one. It may be possible to deconstruct a story or a genre so thoroughly that you end up essentially back where you started, i.e. in this case, pantomiming and indicating, puzzled and perplexed by the relationship between dance and narrative. The Tempest Replica is essentially a classical story ballet with modernised moves, a slightly haphazard libretto and a design culled from the library of avant-garde-analia. But don’t get me wrong, it is plenty fun and stimulating for being so…despite the niggling feeling that it might like to be something else.

Catch Kidd Pivot in The Tempest Replica at International Dance Festival Birmingham on 2 & 3 May

Photos: Ambra Vernuccio

Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a transplanted New Yorker living in London; an artist and writer who has studied art, performance and aesthetics at New York University, Central St Martins and Birkbeck College.

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