Posts Tagged ‘Valentina Golfieri’

Mini-review – 2010 Royal Opera House Firsts, Second Program – Linbury

November 17, 2010

Tonight I went, once again, to the Linbury for the current installment of the Royal Opera House “Firsts” program. First up was a bizarre projection/rope acrobatics piece, with a through-line (told primarily through a narrated movie) about Frank, a clown in a circus in India. There was a lot of discussion about how the circus is received in India, and a bit about the backstage shenanigans – but it all rang kind of false, like a “This American Life” story brought to life (not helped by the rather flat and very American narration). The projections, which were a movie (at times) and ambient lights (emphasizing the movement of the rope artist) were … well, the good part was when three projected, computer-looped dogs had clowns appear behind them and their faces sort of … melt. It was something that could really only have been done with the technology. However, there was no real dramatic tension, the ropework was flat, and the final image of the clown/rope artist spinning around on top of three plastic children’s play horses didn’t move me. I’d say this wasn’t awful but it was certainly not very exciting.

Next up (after a really unnecessary intermission) was Spiltmilk “Say Dance,” the most obvious audience-pleaser of the night. Spiltmilk Dance took a variety of social dance crazes and turned them, intelligently, on their heads: so we saw “The Twist” done as if each of the three dancers was being, in turn and together, in bits and full bodied, possessed by the spirit of Chubby “St. Vitus” Checker; later we had the joy of the “Birdie” dance, the “Time Warp” and the “YMCA” done to “Eine Kleine NachtMusic.” I haven’t seen a piece so cheefully self-conscious and engaged with the vernacular dance idiom since the Buttrock Suites back in Seattle-land. Oh, the mimed “fox trot” with the pointy ears and the bouncing up and down! I enjoyed this work greatly and am most pleased with these ladies for sticking a big fat ray of sunshine right in the middle of a cold November night. Thanks so much!

Suffering by comparison (as well as proximity to so much joy) was “That Was the Time I Stopped,” a.k.a. the one with the blue spangled hotpants. Two women ran side by side across stage, tussled on the floor, balanced on each other, peeked at each other sideways, readjusted their clothing, and generally filled time in a way that I found not compelling and not too full of narrative. And then it was time for the interval – though considering I wasn’t aching with the desire to leave my seat, this certainly wasn’t the worst of pieces that’s made it into curation for this show.

Last up was “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” a semi-puppet show with an old man (the puppet) wandering around a room full of boxes, listening to the radio, which goes between the shipping weather report, sports, and … well, other things. Two men are packing up the boxes behind him, until … well, the old man appears to be transported back into the time when he worked on a ship, and the men become other sailors. The show continues with him slipping back between the past and the present (which moves from him being moved to him being in a hospital), leaving us with a sense of sadness for the joy (and terror) of life on the ocean. It wasn’t the strongest puppet show I’ve ever seen (you’ll note I’ve been to many, so the bar is high), but it was a very good addition to the evening. Overall, this selection was well chosen and I’m pleased I was able to see it – and am looking forward to the final installment on Friday!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tueday, November 16th, 2010. This program will be repeated on Wednesday night. The third and final installment takes place on Friday and Saturday, November 19th and 20th – and at £5 a ticket, it’s not to be missed.)
Official ROH Program description


A performance inspired by holy men and Hollywood – an autobiographical fantasy capturing performers’ memories of life on the road with an Indian circus. The piece fuses physical theatre and unique and elegant aerial work with animation and projection to create a strange reality. Milkwood Rodeo was developed with the support of The Roundhouse and Arts Council England.


Performed by the award-winning Spiltmilk Dance company who use their distinctively quirky style to put a new spin on popular social dance crazes of the 20th century. Dance phenomena such as The Twist, Disco and Ballroom are re-imagined to create a completely new dance experience.


Surreal flights of fancy, fears and hallucinations are spliced together by two enigmatic figures to create a makeshift sense of reality. This is darkly humorous dance in stop-frame.


The Man Who Wasn’t There is a glimpse into the life of ‘Albert’ – a man whose memories are fragmented and who is becoming increasingly drawn into a world of senile confusion. Albert’s stories are told through a unique blend of puppetry and circus by London based company Genius Sweatshop. Genius Sweatshop has been gratefully supported by Crying Out Loud, La Breche (Normandy), The Blue Elephant Theatre, Ideas Tap and countless individuals.


Review – God’s Garden – Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House

February 12, 2010

Tonight J and I went to the Linbury to see God’s Garden, a dance piece by Arthur Pita combining two things I was very interested to see on stage: Madeira and Fado. Fado is the music of Portugal – sort of like the French chansons, tending to be sad – and I enjoy it. Madeira is an island I’ve visited a few time, a glorious, flower-covered island owned by Portugal. I don’t know much about it’s folk culture, but I wasn’t being checked at the gate, so off we went.

The piece was described as being about the unexpected consequences of the anger of a rejected bride. I expected a big tale of revenge, perhaps a retelling of “Like Water for Chocolate” with overtones of “Blood Wedding.” Instead, what I got was a tale of a family in Madeira (patio living and lots of potted flowers) dealing with each other, including the wayward brother (Nuno Silva) who, er, ditched his bride (Valentina Golfieri) at the altar and apparently ran off to drug-filled discos. After the bride was left at the altar, we got to hear a lovely Fado song that was presumably about having your heart broken. Then the bride did a solo in which she stood on one foot and used her leg to draw big circles in the air at times and did sort of stubby anguished leaps (she was so short she couldn’t make them graceful).

After a scene in which the bride’s family negotiated with the other family for financial recompense, we turned to the Groom, running away, dancing, and getting very doped up. He finally returned home, was patched up by gram (Diana Payne-Meyers) and pregnant sis (Lorena Randi), then feted by dad (Lucas Costa) and the rest of the family (cue mimed catching and killing pig for presumed feast). This celebration involved Silva sitting on the table in a big chair and singing “Canto Fado,” which led to a lights-up moment where the cast went out and handed out wine and tried to encourage the audience to sing along (the two Portuguese beside me took them up on the singing, so I went for it, too. No luck with the wine).

Later Granny dies, performing a really impressive solo (given that she looked to be about 70 years old) in which she collapses and then gets back up and dances again, once even doing the splits. She’s buried and then semi-dances a memorable duet with Costa. The tension in this came because Costa is blind, and as he lifted and carried her (and she at one point rolled away from him, and he rolled after), there was an incredible energy of knowing that he couldn’t see us or anything, that he was no longer using his cane or being led by anyone – and it seemed that much more like he was truly bereft by his mother’s death.

Then the vengeful bride comes back, forces the runaway groom to dance with her, and apparently chokes her in her decolletage. It ends with Golfieri dancing on a table over her dead would-have-been husband while the groom’s sister stabs a flowerpot with a big knife.

Does any of that make sense? To me, it seemed like a series of moments that mostly only had a dream-like relation to one another. The guitar playing and singing were all really enjoyable, and I was shocked at what a good voice the groom had. Granny was an amazing dancer – fleet of foot and so flexible that at one point I was checking to see if she was wearing a mask. I was really impressed that they’d manage to work in not just a solo for a person who can’t see, but a duet where he had to find his partner – it was very dramatic. There were certainly some real nods to Madeiran culture – I think the folk dance they did when Groom returned was the real thing – but I could not figure out a real “why” to what was going on. Still, the singing was great, they handed out free wine, and I’ve rarely seen someone so utterly suited to being on stage without underwear as Mr. Silva. So while this was not, in my mind, a great work of dance, it was memorable and an enjoyable night out. (Note: don’t hesitate to take a seat on the end of the aisle, as this will greatly improve your chances of getting some free vino.)

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, February 11th, 2010. The final performance will be on February 13th. The ROH site says it “brings to life the intensity and drama of village life through dance, text and live fado music,” which I think isn’t really true, but it was pleasant nonetheless. For another take, please see the review in the Guardian.)