Ivona, Princess of Burgundia by Tibaldus – Summerhall, Edinburgh
Belgian company The Tibaldus Collective has reworked a classic of Polish theatre, a dark allegory written in 1938 by Witolds Gombrowicz (‘the Polish Shakespeare’) using a mixture of drama and dance. Surrounded by the audience seated in a circle, they play out a bizarre and gruesome nightmare of fairytale in which a girl who is apparently such an ugly, awkward social embarassment that she makes people uncontrollably ugly destroys the royal court without speaking a word. Faced with her inability to be anything other than herself, the King, Queen, Prince and courtiers are driven to confront their own dissembling, and are brought down by their demons.
The material is fascinating, but Tibaldus presents them a in performance style best described as alienating. Dialogue is in English-as-a-second-language style, and dramatic tension is constantly deconstructed through strange pauses and awkward delivery. There is a certain black humour in this, but running at 1 hour 40 mins, it becomes an endurance test. The sporadic outbursts of movement are expressive and committed, but there is not enough of it for a company definitely at its best when dancing.