reviewed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich on 13 December
Mary Norton’s The Borrowers is a story of very small beings who live underneath humans and utilise all those oddments which fall through cracks in floor-boards or under the wainscoting. Not the obvious material for a dance drama, you might think, but Jane Hackett, Estela Merlos and Thomasin Gulgeç prove this wrong.
There is a cast of four, but you really need to add a fifth – Betsy Dadds superb hand-painted animations. Composer Tobias Saunders adds to the atmosphere of a world other than that which we inhabit with a score that combines defined rhythms with matching simple melodic phrases. We first see a subterranean world of pipework and cobwebs, dripped through with water leaks.
There’s the odd spider and mouse to watch before Pod (Gulgeç) rolls onto the stage with n oversized cotton-reel. He’s joined by his wife Homily (Merios) and their adventurous daughter Arrietty (Hannah Mason) who soon leads them from the safety of their underground home into the world outside.
Dadds offers us in fast succession a kitchen a scullery-cum-laundry room and the – to the Borrowers – the bewildering world outside. They have been joined by Spiller (Lewis Cooke) whose rough’n’ready approach is revealed as a façade in his duet with Mason, showing the tomboy maturing into a young woman with feelings.
The lily pond sequence with its improvised stepping-stones leads from the ones in the potting-shed and the garden. By now a foursome, we end on a meadow where thistle-down is followed by a cascade of outsized autumn leaves. It’s imagination-stirring with inventive choreography which never slips into mere display and, at the matinée I saw, held a largely primary-school aged audience spellbound.
Five star rating.
The Borrowers runs at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich until 17 December and will tour nationally next year. Performance times vary, so check with the theatre’s website www.danceeast.co.uk for availability.