Fringe Festival 2013
Ella & Will
A Dance Theatre Show, Anita Hutchins/The Oncunscious Corp
Whitirea Theatre, Wellington February 15-19
This Gothic fairytale, inspired by occultist Aleister Crowley's novel Moonchild, has more problems than you can shake a stick at (or in this case a staff).
Written in 1917 and published in 1929, it doubtless seemed very dastardly then. But in 2013 it just appears naff. People wafting around in long black cloaks with candles remind one of 1950s girls' boarding school stories, where crypts abounded, but nobody really did anything evil. There is an awful surface occultness about the work, but no real heart of darkness.
The director, producer, choreographer/set designer, Anita Hutchins, and the Oncunscious Corps (yes, it is spelt that way) have created an overlong show (opening night ran at two minutes under two hours, almost an hour longer than the printed programme) which lacks pace, cohesion and clarity.
The choreography showed little invention and scant variation. The production is awash with symbols of little relevance to the audience. The absence of any explanation of the scenario, (which apparently took Donna Banicevich Gera six years to write) is a major handicap. Too often we are literally left in the dark, with the music masking the confusing narrative.
There is far too much scuttling about and moving of furniture. The set is comprised of seven large black cubes which are manipulated ad infinitum and frequently substitute for actual choreography, as well as prolonging the action unnecessarily.
Composer and musician Mostyn Cole, who plays the double bass live on stage, has created an atmospheric score that at times serves the dance well.
But it too lacks variation, and contributes to the overall vagueness.
Hutchins, a strong dancer with a dynamic stage presence, appears all too briefly.
Anna Flaherty is a sensuous and lovely Ella; Will Barling (Will) moves well and sings even better, in spite of dim lyrics; Tanemahuta Gray was strong as the Masked Man; Jillian Davey impressed as the Spirit of the Moon and Lara Strong displayed talent beyond her years as The Child Born.
All the cast, including Sandra Norman Shaw, Aleasha Seaward and Andrew Miller, deserve a lot better.
- © Fairfax NZ News