Rupert Christiansen

Lucid and lean: Metamorphoses, at the Theatre Royal Bath, reviewed

Plus: oiled squaddies and sullen Italians at the Resolution Festival

Alina Cojocaru and Matthew Ball as Cupid and Psyche in Metamorphoses at Theatre Royal Bath. Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou

Literate, thoughtful and serious, Kim Brandstrup ranks as one of the most honest and honourable of contemporary choreographers. A proper grown-up, scorning bad-boy sensationalism or visual gimmickry, he compensates in solid consistent craft for whatever he may lack in striking originality, and the double bill he presented earlier this month as part of Deborah Warner’s season in the chapel-like Ustinov Studio behind Bath’s Theatre Royal is quietly and characteristically satisfying.

Can we have a moratorium on the title of Metamorphoses? It’s become a tired cliché

Its subject matter draws on that bottomless source, classical myth. First comes a version of an episode in the saga of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur, focused on Theseus’ abandonment of Ariadne and the return of the Minotaur as a ghost, haunting his sister Ariadne who was complicit in his murder. Brandstrup is good at telling stories: his choreographic language is lucid and lean, without superfluity or contortion, and the action is forcefully articulated. Matthew Ball may be too palpably a nice guy to convince me as a self-centred cad of a Theseus, but Kristen McNally makes Ariadne’s grief hotly vivid and, as the disembodied Minotaur, the astoundingly lithe and resourceful Tommy Franzen scales walls and swings off perches with supernatural simian grace.

The second half of the evening turns to Cupid and Psyche, the fable of the mortal maiden seduced in her sleep by an amorous god whom she never sees. Brandstrup explores this idea through an extended duet for Ball and Alina Cojocaru, their faces nuzzling and their limbs gently entwining as they move towards the light and perhaps a revelation of the true nature of one another. Their sensuality is touching, so tenderly and delicately rendered.

My major gripe relating to both pieces is the way that music is treated: like so many choreographers today, Brandstrup uses it more as a casual soundtrack or backdrop than something organically necessary, the soil out of which the dance grows.

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