Patrick Centre

Birmingham Hippodrome


DIRECTOR and choreographer Arthur Pita and his company, HeadSpaceDance, created a dark look at folklore and the macabre with Stepmother/Stepfather at the launch of DanceEchange’s new season.

The double bill reimagines the happy endings of fairy tales that we are all so used to from childhood, and turns them into dark and twisted avenues of make believe. Pita shows that there are indeed two sides to every story, and his point of view opens a new interpretation to the original style of the gruesome themes of folklore.

Stepmother is the first performance of the night and within it, there are suggestions of the stories we already know, but Pita’s vision is completely new and these fairy tales are mere themes that gives way to a gruesome world of the wrath of the Stepmother.

The piece presents a multitude of fairy tales and turns them into stories never mentioned before. The performance starts with an image of Snow White lying dead within the glass coffin. Once she is taken out, the dark and gruesome underworld is lavishly revealed. One story leads to the next and shows us the villain’s viewpoint. The protagonist’s journey becomes completely different when the wicked Stepmother finally gets their way. 

There are heavy suggestions of the ethereal and Godliness throughout Stepmother. It shows the idea of darkness within every light situation. The accompanying music is of a classical church choir and is serene and calming. Along with this, we watch the dark and gruesome tales of abuse take place.

The company also present holy motives throughout the piece, for example during a sequence of movement that saw a naked male hoisted up in the air, creating a crucifix image, or a little girl in a white dress in a sequence with ladies dressed in black robes and white collars, much like nuns giving communion offerings.

The cast, in both productions are brilliant. Christoper Akrill, Valentina Golfieri, Clemmie Sveaas, Karl Fagerlund Brekke, Nadia Adame and Nathan Goodman are a testament to Pita’s darkly intense imagination and bring out the alternative underworld with striking performances and chilling images.

Stepfather is an original piece from Pita which was first seen in 2007 and Stepmother was the piece to coincide with this. Its tone is definitely upbeat in nature, but its themes are incredibly sinister. It could be said that this is a modern interpretation of the original ideas of folklore and story-telling. Pita uses modern country music laden with banjos and immersive lyrics from the American folk punk band Violent Femmes. While Stepmother presented us with alternative narratives from the characters within folklore tales, Stepfather presents us with a straight narrative. With a family of husband wife and three girls, the horrific story goes beyond love, lust and death and was played out in an electrifyingly macabre style.

Stepfather is a world like no other, and presents a hellish atmosphere in which nobody would choose to live. The juxtaposition between the upbeat music and the glamourous design of Simon Daw opened the terrifying atmosphere to the story of incest and life beyond death.

Pita has no limit when it comes to creating striking images and well-imagined stories. The cast do well to embody Pita’s deliciously dark visions through both pieces. He has an excellent imagination and Stepmother/Stepfather is a great testament to modern dance theatre. With vibrant costume and fantastic choreography, Pita gives an evening to stimulate the imagination that leads us into his dark world of nightmares and stories told like never before.

Elizabeth Halpin


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