The show Fairy Tales & Nightmares started before it began: the playback tango music set the scene while the 5 actor/dancer/musicians were already on stage as the audience took their seats.
I had read in the programme notes that this show is made up of modern dance set to the music of Prokofiev. The first music we heard after the lights went down was a scratchy war time rendition of a patriotic Russian song so I wondered whether the show was going to be a portrayal of that composer´s treatment at the hands of Stalin and his henchmen. In fact there were moments when the dancers mimed an attack on the violinist and this even included pelting him with missiles, some of them hitting the wall behind him, some of them hitting his body or his violin.
This theme was not developed as the show went on but that does not mean it lost interest. In fact I suppose this show is more of a divertissement, an entertainment which features movement and music, not always at the same time. The show was devised by the pianist Shuann Chai , whose incredible playing of the difficult Prokofiev pieces deserved a better instrument than the one used last night. Still, the piano was part of the show: moving it around the stage marked the different scenes in the show. Shuann Chai was also story teller: her telling of the Baba Yaga tale reminds us that fairy tales were not always the saccharin product Disney likes to pretend. Shunske Sato is a wonderful violinist and all round artist: how many violinists you know would allow someone to throw missiles at their violin, be used as a foil for comedy routines, partner a dancer in over and under movements while playing perfectly in tune, and be smothered into “unconsciousness”, only to be revived in time to play a duet with a film of himself playing the other part?
The choreography was created by dancers Ederson Rodrigues Xavier and Masahiro Yanagimoto and included extended solos and duets and action which involved the pianist and violinist. A scene like a wrestling match to grasp control of a gas mask included drama and comedy. Movements involved mainly floor work with angular poses. There were moments when the dancers joined the audience as spectators to the music interludes.
These four performers filled the stage with humour, drama and skillful interpretations of the choreography and music and they moved between each others´ roles as the dancers played the piano and the musicians danced.
The fifth member of the cast is in fact a life size, dismembered latex puppet created by Duda Paiva . He, sorry it, is manipulated with such skill by Ederson Rodrigues Xavier that he, sorry it, takes on the role of a character and is movingly expressive.
This was an enjoyable and entertaining show. If I had to split hairs I would say that I would prefer to hear less of the phrase happy ever after: it never sounds in my nightmares and in my fairytales it only comes once, when all else is said and done.