For their latest outing Springs Dance Company, the contemporary dance company known for their unique yet accessible productions, have taken a Chinese folk tale and not just brought it up to date, but thrown it firmly into the future.
The story is somewhat Orwellian in nature. Set in a time where the finer things in life are gone, and only a culture of relentless work, greed and big business remain, we’re met with an eerily misty set, dominated by scaffolding and bursting with searchlights looking for slackers. Amongst the grey, we find a little girl (Emily Young) who refused to be brought down. Her dance and play echoes of lost times, and leads her into a chance meeting with a magical man (Charles Washington), who gifts her a paint brush, to transform the world she lives in, for her and those around her. Before long we learn that the paintbrush also has a mind of its own, and even when challenged, it is unwavering in its mission to spread only wonder and good.
The choreography by Darren Ellis is most definitely the star of the show here, contributing to brilliant storytelling and working hard to hold the attention of our young viewers, even when the soundtrack and the muted pingu-style dialogue become a bit monotonous. Although the dream sequences give rise to some beautiful shadow puppetry, for little ones, however, the production was ever so slightly let down by the confusing mix of over-simplified dialogue brought together with quite grown up staging, leaving the production lacking in real colour and slightly at odds with its age-billing.
That said, for those visitors fooled by the old-fashioned title, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this very futuristic production, a story which captures some timelessly important messages for our children; real magic only happens when you focus on what’s important in life, placing value on friendships, shared ideals and the beauty of human kindness.
ArtsAloud enjoyed The Magic Paintbrush at artsdepot on 30th October on a complimentary ticket.
The production is now touring the UK. See website for dates and details of venues near you.