The most exciting inclusion in this year’s Anywhere Theatre Festival, BYTES’ Metamorphoses is performed entirely in a pool. Fortunately for the performers, and for those in the front row – the splash zone – the pool is heated! Testament to the imagination and sass of this creative team (Robyn Ernst, Jo Hendrie, Melissa Lanham and Travis Macfarlane), not even the Tony Award winning Broadway production used more than an ankle-deep body of water on stage.
Evocative shapes and intelligent use rather than overuse of repetition and canons, seamless transitions and generally strong vocal work below an ever-changing series of gorgeous lighting states can be considered fairly standard now for this youth company. These elements, with Lanham’s touch all over them, combine to take us on a richly rewarding journey through a series of the ancient myths of Ovid, brought to life in the water using a combination of narrators, and characters particular to each story, as well as abstract configurations, using just bodies in and around the water.
Lanham’s choreography is always stunning and this time, like Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire could do, only backwards and in heels, she accomplishes it all in the waist-deep water of Buderim Aquatic Centre’s enclosed heated pool. The performers are tasked with swimming, diving, and at one point (and it’s a highlight, and just one of many powerful and emotive images), almost death-rolling beneath its surface before coming together to create images of trees and corridors and ships. Performers swim up to play a leading role and sink away agin to re-join the company as their featured story draws to a close. The sense of ensemble is present at every moment, and the stillness that starts and closes the show is powerful; pure magic sub-surface energy and intensity, which informs well considered, economised action. The performers are strong and bold, and incredibly brave to commit to spending well over 90 minutes in the water during these cooler autumn nights. Costumes, conceptualised by Ernst and inspired by the water’s hues, are beautifully basic and effective.
Fragments of stories and commentary intercept the featured tales – King Midas, which feels cutely reminiscent of King Herod’s scene in Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, beautifully bookending the show, and Ceryx and Alcyone, Erysichthon, Orpheus and Eurydice, Pomona, Phaeton, Eros and Psyche, Baucus and Philemon – not all are well known but all are well told.
Metamorphoses is a coup for both BYTE and Anywhere Theatre Festival, which celebrates performances anywhere but in theatres. This is the most powerful and engaging production to fit the brief. Let’s hope we don’t need to wait until next year’s festival to experience this sort of inspired live entertainment again.
Metamorphoses was experienced on Friday May 12.
Dates: May 12 and May 18, 19 & 20
Where: Buderim Aquatic Centre
Review by Xanthe Coward