Metamorphoses, Bath Theatre Royal, Ustinov studio

HOW lucky are those of us who can get to the Ustinov Studio at Bath! Described by What’s On Stage as “the most exciting performance space in the south west, if not the country,” this tiny theatre currently hosts one of the most mesmerising, brilliant and profoundly moving dance performances you are ever likely to see.

And if that sounds like hyperbole, it isn’t. Everyone who left the theatre after Kim Brandstrup’s double-bill Metamorphoses was buzzing with the sheer thrill of having experienced something that was nothing short of a masterpiece.

Some of us had already seen Minotaur, one of the highlights of Ustinov artistic director Deborah Warner’s 2022 season. It is a new interpretation of the Ancient Greek myth of the young woman Ariadne, who guides the hero Theseus into the maze where he kills the monster Minotaur, half man-half bull, and Ariadne’s half-brother. Ariadne is seduced by the Greek warrior, but he abandons her.

In Brandstrup’s physically powerful interpretation, Ariadne is torn between lover and dead brother, and is rescued by the god Dionysus who literally climbs and flies into her abandoned isolation.

Royal Ballet star Matthew Ball was powerful and seductive as Theseus, with the truly astonishing Tommy Franzen as Dionysus, and the bull-headed Minotaur, and Kristen McNally deeply moving as Ariadne, a rare instance in Greek myth of a woman who makes her own choices – but is almost torn apart by the results.

Matthew Ball was back for the second, new work, Metamorphosis, a complete revision of the familiar Psyche and Cupid story – they meet always in the dark and Cupid tells her she must never see his face. When she shines a light on him one night, he and her life of (lonely) luxury and love vanish in an instant.

But in this intense work – you literally hold your breath for minutes on end – there is perhaps light … and love … at the end.

With the exquisite Alina Cojocaru as Psyche, this is a piece of dance theatre that asks deep questions about love and how much we must endure to achieve a truly mutual connection.

The music for both pieces is eclectic, ranging from Armenian to electronic, from Bach to Arvo Part. Each illuminates subtly the section of the story.

Total strangers left the theatre talking to each other about the experience of seeing these dance superstars in world-class work, in such an intimate space.

Metamorphoses runs to Saturday 10th February and it’s a complete sell-out – returns only.


Photographs by Foteini Christofilopoulou

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