Peter and the Wolf – Dance City

Canine combat – the Wolf and Peter

The Wolf and Peter, created by Irish company Coisceim Dance Theatre, is as exquisite and perfectly formed as a handmade Christmas snow globe. It is just less than an hour’s worth of delight, which is as much as you can probably hope for in one day.
Showing at Newcastle’s premiere dance venue Dance City, Artistic Director of Coisciem, David Bolger, has created a magical piece of storytelling and a delicious blend of contemporary dance, humour and emotion which captivated the entire audience including some quite small children.
The simplified solo live piano score of Prokofiev’s iconic music, was performed beautifully by Conor Linehan, supplemented with the swell of orchestral music as the piece reached its emotional climax.

Looking for adventure

The characters are brought to life by some extremely talented performers. Ivonne Kalter is charming as Peter the curious boy, restless and searching for excitement and freedom from his everyday life. Special mention must go to Matthew Williamson’s break dancing (B-boying) wolf who was so funny bouncing and spinning around the stage with his huge wolfish grin.

A fearsome predator

Matthew the wolf was equally good when he was down on his luck, caught and jailed. The scene where he is behind bars and his tormented movements echo those of Peter, restless in bed at home,  thinking of the wolf’s plight, is excellent. The watching children absolutely loved him ‘I love the wolf!’ was the cry from the small boy behind me. Emma O’Kanes’ scheming cat was also very funny as was Jonathan Mitchell’s bobbing bird and Mateusz Szczerek’s ill fated duck. When the duck gets eaten by the wolf and all you can see are his yellow webbed feet sticking forlornly out from behind the piano, I heard a small child say. ‘How did he die?’ A legacy of the new forensically aware generation.

Doomed duck dancing

Themes of being trapped and freedom and time are interwoven throughout the piece. Peter and his animal friends play ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’ a childhood game I remember well. There is a lovely scene where Peter is confined to home and is watching time ticking slowly and mercilessly by, reminding us that it is passing inexorably away for all of us. Ivonne Kalter’s performance of a bored boy trapped at his desk, fidgeting, flopping, sighing and throwing himself about in despair at the dullness of it all, was just perfect and very funny. I still feel that like sometimes.

What time is it Mr Wolf?

When the wolf, trapped by Peter, is reluctantly handed over to the huntsmen, they all take a selfie with the vanquished beast, a wry nod to both our self obsessed world of social media and the sinister practice of canned hunting.
Prokofiev wrote the original story as well as the music, although he was definitely more talented at the latter. This version is reworked to create a much more uplifting and satisfying ending. Instead of imprisoning the wolf forever and humiliating him in front of the townsfolk, Peter befriends him and is introduced to the other members of his wolfpack in the forest and they play together.

The wolf is captured

The shadow work at the back of the stage was simple and very effective and when Peter goes into the woods to play with the wolves, echoes of the Jungle Book and the importance of appreciating and living with the natural world are brought home. Acts of forgiveness and friendship are shown to be both positive and uplifting, in an affirmation of fairytale restorative justice. Peter’s connection with the wolf pack brings him a kind of transcendent joy at the end of the piece which his own world has never given him.

Forest encounter

This is a performance of great charm and incredible attention to detail, there’s nothing superfluous or pantomime about it. Lovely music, great storytelling and great performances – what’s not to like?
I’ve seen some outstanding performances this year at Dance City whatever Artistic Director Anthony Baker is doing, lets hope he keeps on doing it into 2017.
Founded in 1995 CoisCeim (pronounced Kush Came) is one of Ireland’s leading dance companies and you can find out more about what they are doing next, including their plans to travel down under here Coisciem Dance Theatre