With Phaedra/Minotaur, director Deborah Warner and Choreographer Kim Brandstrup present a couple of easily digestible slices of re-interpreted Greek mythology. They’re stripped back and impassioned, though not always the most satisfying.
Stripped back and impassioned, though not always the most satisfying
It all kicks off with a performance of Benjamin Britten’s Phaedra. On a sparsely populated stage of black and white, Richard Etherington takes to the keys in a paired down rendition of the piece while Christine Rice offers a rather more fulsome vocal delivery of the cantata. As she tells the story of the moment Phaedra tragically falls for Hippolytus, the son of her husband. While the quality of her singing is excellent, the delivery feels relentlessly overwrought.
In the second part of the performance, dance replaces music to carry the story of the Minotaur, or rather Ariadne’s betrayal when she saves Theseus from the mythical creature. This part of the performance is stronger, delivering an emotionally charged ballet choreographed by Brandstrup. It's danced by Jonathan Goddard, Tommy Franzen, and Isabel Lubach, whose ever-shifting, sensuous movements, accented by Eilon Morris' intriguing score, cohere well with the minimalistic design.
Passages where Goddard and Lubach’s fluid courtship elegantly play over the stage are very well conceived and delivered, but the highlight comes later when Franzen descends the climbing hold-peppered background wall with no shortage of grace. The dancer is seemingly effortless as he moves and hangs off the wall, enacting the emotional performance while imbuing the emotionality of the piece with some genuine spectacle.
The staging is bare but effective, the storytelling is thematic rather than narrative, and the quality of performance is generally very good throughout the production. However, Phaedra/Minotaur remains a little unbalanced across the two pieces and if some of the complexity delivered in the latter half could be infused into the earlier section then there could have been something very special here.