sat 04/02/2023

In A Deep Dark Wood, Gobbledegook and Moko Dance, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

In A Deep Dark Wood, Gobbledegook and Moko Dance, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre

In A Deep Dark Wood, Gobbledegook and Moko Dance, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre

Contemporary dance is cool for kids

'In A Deep Dark Wood': A musical journey as much as a physical oneMoko Dance

Most children's theatre productions are usually either heavily branded (think Peppa Pig's roadshow) or - particularly with dance - saccharine to the point of patronising (think My First Cinderella). It is refreshing then, to see a kid's company that brings contemporary dance in its most organic form, to children. And reassuring to see that they can totally handle it.

The story is very simple - a girl enters the woods alone and is by turns excited, frightened, lonely, brave, overjoyed, calm and happy. This is all conveyed through playful physical language made up of a little bit of mime and a lot of release-based technique (choreographer Sandra Harnisch-Lacey is trained in mime and physical theatre). It's quite a lofty concept for such small minds, but the children are enthralled throughout.

Olivia Quayle venturing into the woodsIt is a musical journey as much as a physical one, with Mark Melville's composition bubbling throughout with the appropriate simplistic melodies and elements to convey travelling, trepidation wonder, etc.

Two screens behind the solo dancer project images of the woods and monstery faces, working through motion capture in a Rob Ryan inspired cut-out design. She dances with a shadow version of herself in a game of opposites, nasties and hopscotch, her alter-ego shrinking down to fairy-like size and returning to help out in times of emotional trouble, before growing again in a coming of age kind of conclusion.

The children scrabble to take part in the interactive element of swooshing their hands over the 'magic cushions' that scrub out the graphic backgrounds. Kids of all age - here ranging from roughly two to nine years old - all want to be involved.

The main character, Olivia Quayle (pictured above), moves with admirable strength and body confidence, with a vigour that children can identify with and a flow that they can aspire to. Originally a gymnast, she has a few cartwheely stunts up her sleeve that will delight the little ones.

There are messages of the preservation of nature, understanding the elements and overcoming adversity but not so much that they are shoved down your throat. In fact there almost wasn't enough of it. It was incredibly short - quick enough to feel short changed at £12 (adults) or £7 (kids) a ticket, perhaps, although sandwiched between craft workshops of sticking sequins and feathers onto birds and dancers and a workshop with the creative team, it's not so bad.

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