views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Blue Elephant Theatre
30th October 2013


The company of Nutshell Dance

Photography © Alicia Clarke

With a few famous exceptions - Peter Pan, I'm looking at you - we all grow up. And whilst everyone's journey is different, there are shared difficulties. Retrospective, a 60 minute piece by Nutshell Dance Company, explores this odd in-between stage, when you're too old to be considered a child, but yet not mature enough to be an adult.

It could be argued that adolescence is a turbulent, confusing time and that this should be reflected in the pacing. However, even taking this into account, Retrospective still feels very fragmented. The sections are linked by repeated phrases and of course, the same performers, but there isn't a strong narrative thread explaining why this should be considered one complete piece. Choreographer Mari Frogner states in her notes that this is deliberate, but the disjointed nature makes it difficult to follow at times.

Costume designer Sarah Mercade styles the performers simply. Antonello Apicella (the only male) is dressed in loose dark grey trousers and a t-shirt, the women, Hannah Cameron, Sarah Hitch, Jenny Reeves and Harriet Elizabeth Waghorn all wear differently coloured tunics with matching shorts. The blocks of turquoise, dark blue, purple and light grey complement each other, and are striking against the stark background of the black box theatre. This isn't a piece with props or scenery, the focus is entirely on the movements.

Apicella impresses from the start, with a seemingly effortless flexibility and grace. And the skill of all dancers is never more evident than in the ensemble work, where they move quickly, their actions at times fast and furious, at one point even jumping over each other whilst never staying still. When they sway from side to side altogether, it's almost hypnotic.

Although the movements are all very strong and considered, some of the performers do fail to reflect this expression in their faces - and with the Blue Elephant such an intimate setting, this is a missed opportunity to drawn the audience in further.

Frogner certainly creates some interesting work, her start and ending here are both clearly defined. There are ideas, and the dancers are talented enough that you forgive the overlong pauses between sections - you're happy to wait to see what they will do next. But this could be an even better piece if Frogner spent more time on explaining the journey and keeping up the momentum for the full hour.

Retrospective opened on 29th October and runs until 2nd November 2013 at the Blue Elephant Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Oval (Northern)

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