Fringe review: Tarantula: Tarantella, Tarantula

Runs until 3.6 at 19:30 at Divadlo Na Pradle

The tarantella dancers of the Mediterranean regions were women who, it was believed (and maybe it is still believed) had the mystical power of curing tarantula bites and, it seems, just about everything else.

Through music, movement and narrative, this show tells the story of Giovannina, "our grandmother". Both the music and the movement were at times superb: an evocative, melancholy live music score performed by an ensemble of three musicians set the mood beautifully.

Accordians were central to the sound, but most intriguing was an instrument that looked like a huge biscuit tin and sounded like a sad piano. On the small stage, in what seemed like effortless synchronicity, four actor (or were they dancers?) carried the movemnet sequences. There were some particularly effective sequences (journeys were beautifully evoked, as was the hospital scene) alongside a few which
seemed more like exploration rather than expression.

Even with these less effective moments, though, the visual aspects of the show were always interesting. Set, costumes and lighting perfectly complemented the atmosphere of the music and movement, and the moody intimacy of Divadlo Inspirace was the ideal location.

It was in the text, however, that the show failed for me. The unevenly delivered narrative was at times disconnected from what was happening on stage. It did not help that the narrator was physically removed from the main playing space and neither he nor the other actors ever really connected with the audience, though there was ample opportunity for this in such an intimate space. It seems the company did not trust the movement and music to carry the story. They overloaded the narrative with the fruits of their research without stopping to consider how this could be communicated primarily by what they did best - by subtle haunting music and evocative symbolic movement.

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