Dawn rises over the forest and a girl and her shadow play in the sunlight, cavorting and dancing. The stage is simple: a screen and some trees – or their silhouettes – but through animated projections, backlit shadows and impeccably-choreographed dance, the three actors create a rich world. As darkness falls the shadow plays and dances in the moonlight, happy until Mr Malasombra comes seeking shadows to steal away.
Reminiscent of Fantasia, the music plays a large part in telling the story – whether it’s evoking the creepy wood, the joyful celebrations, the tense chase or the final triumph. Covering a wide variety of genres, it generally succeeds in being emotive without becoming overpowering.
But the performance suffers greatly from the physical setup of the stage. Because of the space required to create shadows behind the screen, there’s little room left in front of it. This is particularly frustrating during scenes where action is partly or wholly on the floor, as the majority of the audience, even craning their necks, cannot see most of what’s happening on stage.
And while a projected backdrop provided most of the setting and scenery, I found the mixture of styles from semi-realistic to highly-cartoonish rather jarring in places. Keeping closer to the more muted colours and realistic style of the dawn and forest would have maintained the ambiance, and unified the shadow and projection scenes better.
On the plus side, though, shadow is used to excellent effect, particularly to set the scenes inside buildings and to play with changing power and size. The confusion of lights and shadows during the chase scenes was excellent, as were the well-chosen costumes, from long coats that accentuated powerful jumps to sweet skirts that mirrored emotions in both real and shadow forms. However, I found that the extra-long arms given to Mr Malasombra in later scenes inhibited his elegant style and power. It was ominous, but it was also a great loss.
Overall, this is a very accessible piece: adults will be left with food for thought, while children will enjoy the relatively scary tale. It runs a little long in some places, but the narrative is good. The dancing and acting are beautiful, and it is a visual feast.