Lost Theatre, Wandsworth, London
Written & Directed by Stuart Saint
I love a good fairy tale, so when I managed to get tickets for Princess I was eager to see what they would do with the classic tales; it did not disappoint.
In Princess, the audience are led down a series of fantastical dance pieces showing alternate takes on different fairy tale characters and tropes seen through the eyes of the Girl through a Wonderland-esque rabbit hole. Using different dance, design and characters the show portrays a much darker side where not all is as it seems and the question of how the classic princess fairs today is raised.
The performances from the whole ensemble have to be admired for performing on maximum energy through the whole 60 minutes without faltering to a fast-paced rave inspired soundtrack. Throughout the performances seem flawless, without a step out of place when an ensemble and more individual performances are filled with character. Particular mention has to be given to White Rabbit (Morgan Scott) who gives an enchanting striking performance throughout that tells a story of its own. This all is knitted together through Stuart Saint’s direction and choreography, keeping the separate sketches running together and leaving the audience entranced.
One thing that stood out to me was the strong yet simple visual design for the piece. The costumes were torn, black and often lacy, sometimes tinged with red that exposed flesh without being overtly sexual. This perfectly highlighted the dark premise of the piece without forcing it down your throat. This was paired with a black stage which was sparsely decorated with a pile of TVs on the front and a larger TV screen on the back wall which throughout provided stark ruined video graphics that fleshed out the piece and also reminded me of the scratchy aesthetic of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. This was all surrounded with Stuart Saints dance soundtrack echoing the drum and bass of the 90’s with simple repetitive locals which kept the audience clued in.
I really appreciated the way Princess dealt with sexuality in the piece. Throughout the Girl’s storyline seemed to focus around the idea that many fairy tales are a safe way to explore budding sexuality. This felt well-handled as Jennie Dickie stood out with a soft approach to her characters’ movements contrasting with the rest of the characters harder more definite movements. This also was presented through the costuming where both men and women were equally revealed in their garments without it seeming sexual and any sexuality was brought through the choreography. There were also no qualms made about some characters being made more sexual than their traditional counterparts.
While hugely enjoyable throughout at times I found what, I was actually seeing hard to follow, especially as my brain was scrabbling to connect them to stories I already knew, and some of the masks worn were distracting and I felt inhibited the dancers’ clear movements. At times this pulled me out of the performance but never long enough to disrupt my enjoyment.
Princess provides a pumping, visceral evening of dance that uses the breadth of dance to show the modern story of a woman’s journey into sexuality through classic narratives, using stark and beautiful designs coupled with an outstanding dance troupe to deliver a fast-paced enjoyable evening that leaves you breathless.
This production has now closed.
© Daniel Ramsden – 2016 – @DanielRamsdenFL