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The Dagger and White Lily, The Space

Hayley Goggin
Directed by Justyna Ziarek and Kaitlin Argeaux
★★★

Pros: The dancing is exceptional – powerful, moving and, at times, breath taking. The acting is also very good with The Space as a wonderful backdrop to the piece.

Cons: The ending didn’t resolve the piece enough, and there seemed to be a few organisational issues, which led to the production getting off to a late start.

Our Verdict: This is a show with a strong message and exceptional choreography.

Courtesy of The Space

The Dagger and White Lily presents a modern take on Italian martyr Maria Goretti’s attack in the early 1900s, telling the story via two young teens from vastly differing but torn backgrounds in a council estate. It is (accurately) described as “a dance based adaptation that blurs the line between fantasy and reality.” The play starts out rather innocently but violently spirals into an horrific event.

The performance takes place in a lovely old Presbyterian church, and the stage is minimalistic, consisting of only two chairs and a makeshift wall. There is a very clever use of cleaned out pasta jars as lights. The lights and music are well orchestrated, and while the music at times gets a little too loud for the space, it provides the right atmosphere for the scenes, and really helps the mood and tone to shift when nesessary.

The story of Alex and Maria is told mostly through the medium of dance, with background and inner monologue provided by two white-clad ‘spirits’. There are four main characters- two dancers and two actors to represent Maria and Alex. Each actor acts as voice and spirit of their dancer, and often pushes and moulds them. The spirits are not dissimilar to the Tempest’s Arial- but interestingly, where Alex seems entirely under the control of his spirit, Maria seems only marginally influenced by hers.

Cohesion between dancer and spirit is impeccable. The dancing in this show is fantastic, energetic yet painful as the characters struggle against their will. Iskander R. Sharazuddin is particularly impressive as Alex – he brings an excellent mix of malevolence and evil into the role.

The star of the show is dancer Sabrina Gargano’s Maria. Given the fragility and innocence of Maria’s nature, it would have been so easy to cast her as ethereal, lithe- but instead Gargano’s Maria is muscular, strong, and a force of nature. Her dancing is passionate and she adapts her movement wonderfully to suit the changing themes.

The subject matter is not for the faint of heart (which could and should be mentioned prior to attendance as this is not a show for a younger audience.) There is an orgasm scene that makes when Harry met Sally look like an episode of Blue Peter, but it’s the violence that really leaves an impact.

The most crucial scene depicts unimaginable brutality; it suddenly becomes painfully clear why the dancers are covered in bruises. The scene is heart-breaking and is made all the more painful by how beautifully it is created. It’s disturbing to be so wrapped up in the scene, but it is so well presented that it is nearly impossible not to be enraptured.

The entirely of the show is easy to follow, but the ending was the only part of the performance that really let it down. It was unclear what the outcome was, and far too much time was devoted to a lacklustre dance scene – one that was completely out of place in a performance dominated by creative, breath-taking, heart stopping choreography.

Ending aside, this was a beautiful piece. The dancing and acting are combined seamlessly, and the message from the show stays with you long after you exit the theatre. The Dagger and White Lily is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it is a moving piece with exceptional dancing.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Dagger and White Lily runs at The Space until 3rd August 2013.
Box Office: 02075157799 or book online at The Space

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Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.