views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Very Important Child
The Blue Elephant Theatre
16th November 2016

★★★☆☆

Ensemble

Photography provided by the Blue Elephant Theatre

How would you assess your personality and your psychological state? How have these developed over the years? Such questions intrigue The Mostly Everything People, who use dance, movement and lyrical outpourings to explore the ego in The Very Important Child. In essence, dancers Christopher Preece and Virginia Scudeletti examine what it is to be human. Somewhat innocent and childish, the two characters delve into an exploration of the Nine Stages of the Ego, as proposed by psychologist Jane Loevinger. Helpfully these stages are printed onto a card that is handed out at the start, but there is no need for familiarity to truly appreciate the dances. There is no major storyline rather the movement reveals the characters' changeable, sometimes conflicting states of mind and development.

To be perfectly honest, whilst I'm not sure whether I was meant to find any kind of deep meaning in the increasingly bizarre, non-gender specific and non-species specific subjects (spoiler alert: I didn't), I did enjoy the strange, somewhat hypnotic qualities of the choreography. The best part was the explicit exploration of the Nine Stages in which Preece and Scudeletti describe what the different stages represent. The one involving guilt and shame for not getting everything done by 5.30 as promised particularly resonated with me! Things then got rather interesting as the pair found themselves hurtling backwards and forwards between stages while a voice from above (a god or psychologist perhaps?) bellowed out their progress before everything descended into smoky chaos...

Jennifer Fletcher and Preece's direction leave plenty of question marks, however there's no denying that Ben Pacey's design is well-thought out. The production makes excellent use of props. From dressing up clothes and colourful balls (the sort that you would find in a ball pit, and a big one at that) to smoke and water, Preece and Scudeletti playfully use their resources to good effect. One particularly memorable scene quite simply involves the dancers elegantly washing their faces, but it is truly beautiful to watch. Similarly, when Scudeletti throws balls into the audience while describing one of the stages, she does so in a wonderfully spirited way.

Both dancers have astute comic timing, though perhaps I would have liked a bit more complexity in places, or a few tricks. Scudeletti's twirling, nevertheless, deserves a mention for creating a kind of trance. I was enthralled throughout, fixated on her movement. Pacey’s lighting too is thoughtfully conceived, with four shadows beautifully echoing the dancers' movements. Visually, there's so much to take in and enjoy.

My criticism of this piece is that I just didn't get all of it. I absolutely loved it when a book detailing the Myers-Briggs test fell down from above, as I've been working on a few business books in my day job recently that include it and I found the connection amusing. However, I couldnt quite piece everything together in the performance. As a critic, I am always trying to understand everything, but ultimately I enjoyed watching the show and I'm not sure it mattered that much not quite following every tiny detail. And quite possibly a show that explores personality and humanity shouldn't be completely clear anyway, if you know what I mean...

The Very Important Child ran on 16th November 2016 at the Blue Elephant Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Oval (Northern)



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