Liv Lorent takes us into the fantasy world of Pippanouska, a librarian with a fairy tale to explore with four other characters that also inhabit the library. The first act is warm and inviting with an elaborate set which the dancers transform from a Gothic library into an irresistable playground, a see-saw, ladders and swings. The dancers perform with sensitive musicality and there is very strong ensemble work here. I noticed there were some unexpected Capoeira-inpsired moves which was pleasantly unexpected.
Act two is the where the fantastical journey is undertaken and there are nuances of an interpretation of the romantic ballets, with the Angelmoth suspended from wire – this harks back to the days when ballerinas actually did swing in the air. The icons of fairytales present themselves in the form the siren, the traveller and the boy.
Gwen Berwich as Pippanouska gives a sustained and engaging performance. Winifred Burnet-Smith as The Angelmoth is ethereal, although at times I felt her presence was overpowered by the aerial work and narration and other players. The Siren by Debbi Purtill brought up images of the Black Widow, but I felt at times she was disconnected from the other players on stage and the more aggressive dancing with her nemeisis The Stranger was one-dimensional. Outstanding peformance by Davie Rae as Oswald, his background in break came to the forefront and carried the character.
In all I felt the show was entertaining and perfectly pitched for its intended audience (age 5 and up). It appeared very popular with the young dance-goers and their parents. Lorent achieves an original fairy tale and there is a great enthusiasm on behalf of her collaborators that bring the work to life. I didn’t, however, understand the insistence on using pointe shoes, apart from its appeal to five-year old girls to see ‘ballerinas on stage; the dancing and the contact work was more confident and stronger without the impeding foot bondage. The second act was not as strong as the first half, however, the spectacular set, aerial work and costumes made up for what lacked in cohesive ensemble work.