Friday 13 July 2018

Metamorphoses 2 @ Waterloo East Theatre

Metamorphoses 2 @ Waterloo East Theatre

In 2017, Off The Cliff theatre company performed Metamorphoses, a festival of visual and physical theatre based on Ovid's narrative poem. A year later and the company return with five new mini-plays based on that same source material.

It's a clever concept: taking a piece of Roman literature and transforming them into four very modern tales. Feminism, masculinity, politics and more are all explored through the eyes of gods and mortals, mixing monologues with dance and a dash of experimentation.

It's an ambitious undertaking that's something of a mixed bag. Opener 'The Tapestry' by Emma Rogerson is perhaps the most successful. Here, Ovid's tale of Philomela is smartly placed into the context of the #MeToo movement. The use of dance for Philomela's rape by Terrance shows artful subtlety where the remains of the piece are a touch heavy handed, but performances from Valenzia Spearpoint and Georgie Grier carry the drama with sincerity.

The night closes with 'A Bumper Harvest' by Christine Roberts, which sees the plight of refugees depicted through the eyes of Mors, the Roman personification of death. Powerful performances from Abdoulie Mboob and Naheen Nazmin contrast well with the matter of fact delivery from Meg Lake as Mors, asking us to question our treatment of refugees.

The three remaining pieces, though, struggle under the weight of their themes. The politics in play in Niall Urquhart's 'I Fought The State And The State Won' feel overly simplistic in a near future of fake news, and although Jonathan Brandt admirably uses the myth of Hermaphrodite to take on body dysmorphia and gender identity in 'A Couple In One', the overtly comical and cartoonish Tweedledee and Tweedledum delivery feels misguided.

Musical interludes between each piece are provided by a musical trio. Vocalists Weronika Bielecka and Olandra weave melismatic melodies and delicate harmonies in mournful union, underpinned by Samuel Creer on cello. The link between the songs and the scenes however isn't always clear, and although their music is beautiful to listen to, it unnecessarily stretches out the performance.

It is, overall, an uneven production with some moments of wonderful creative thinking that modernise the myths. At times it borders on pretentious and there's a lack of polish to the performances, but no doubt Ovid's rich work will provide plenty of material for more Metamorphoses to come.


Watch: Metamorphoses 2 runs at the Waterloo East Theatre from July 10-15th.

Ticket courtesy of London Box Office.

Metamorphoses 2 @ Waterloo East Theatre

Metamorphoses 2 @ Waterloo East Theatre
Photos: James Hall