Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Wolf and Peter: the one where a character with a deadly past gets to have a future #BelFest

David Bolger’s The Wolf and Peter takes Prokofiev’s traditional tale and turns it on its head, relaying it through the eyes of the Wolf.

There’s a Peter and the Wolf-sized gap in my childhood. So doing my research before the show I asked my daughter what the story was. “The Wolf eats the Duck, Peter kills the Wolf, and the Duck is still alive inside him.” She left out the Huntsmen, the Cat and the Bird.

Tonight’s performance by CoisCéim mixed visual humour and slapstick with lots of contemporary dance, stylised and at times remarkable synchronised. True to the original, each character has a different style of music and motif – the wolf beat boxes and break dances – and some of Prokofiev’s themes are still recognisable.
Early one morning, Peter opened the gate and walked out into the big green meadow.

Monica Frawley’s set places a coppice of stylised tall thin tree trunks in the centre of the stage. Vivid blocks of colour light up the otherwise dark stage.

Much of the dance performance has the feel of a silent movie, with brilliant live accompaniment coming from the talented fingers of Conor Linehan who plays an upright piano on stage for most of the fifty minute show. (Conor also has the most fabulous mad scientist hair.) There were a few non-standard sounds coming out of the piano, reminiscent of PianOrquestra, a 2013 festival production. And it’s good to see another festival show with snow!

While the single section of dialogue after twenty five minutes helped me clarify which character was which, it jarred against the otherwise nearly wordless performance. Unacquainted with the original tale, the appearance and actions of the Grandfather – dressed up as a grandfather clock – still bamboozle me, though the slippers were a lovely touch.

There’s a hint of Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth film in the Duck’s death scene as the red lighting foretells the demise of the flat-footed character. But any feeling of peril amongst children in the audience is quickly eradicated as parts of the costume are comically hurled over the piano.

Wednesday evening’s show was very informal, with spontaneous applause erupting at various points and the chittering of youngsters analysing the performance.

Wojciech Grudziński, Ivonne Kalter, Jonathan Mitchell, Emma O’Kane and Mateusz Szczerek confidently inhabit the multiple characters they play and the music blends so well with the choreography.

The titular inversion is the clue that the Duck is not going to end up victorious over the Wolf. In fact to paraphrase a local politician, audiences go home from The Wolf and Peter realising that people with a past can also have a future … once they’ve been tamed. The inclusion of this allegory in the festival programme is perhaps coincidentally yet unwittingly timely given the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland.

The Wolf and Peter runs in the MAC until Friday 30 October. Suitable for ages 6 and over … though good luck answering the “What’s Peter doing now?” questions if you don’t know the story.

RIP Duck.

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