Thricely? Precisely. A Pocket Full of Pips

Photospace Studio, Level 2, Dixon Street, Wellington

17/02/2010 - 27/02/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

director Brigid Costello

Devised by Pinwheel Productions

Keep Everything. Lose Your Mind. 

This February, the director of 2008’s sold-out season of The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party (Three Spoon Theatre) returns with a dance theatre production that delves into the details of obsessions and compulsions. Thricely? Precisely. A Pocket Full of Pips is a bold new devised work that explores the neurotic, turbulent symptoms of obsession through an unlikely medium: Dance.

For director Brigid Costello, these two subjects were not far removed. “The physical symptoms of anxiety have a dance-like quality,” says Costello. “The compulsions that are carried out to quieten the obsessive mind have a specific, repetitive and rhythmical nature which lends them well to a dance work.” A former dancer in the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Costello both directs and performs alongside fellow dancers Hannah Elks and Jane Wenley.

Using the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Princess and the Pea as a stimulus, Costello brings a sense of whimsy and play to Thricely?, providing relief and accessibility to its otherwise daunting subject matter. “I was inspired by Anderson’s bizarre depiction of the ‘real princess’ as a hypersensitive, neurotic heroine whose pea obsession somehow wins her a husband. I wanted to explore whether or not this vulnerable creature could actually function in contemporary society. From our investigations so far, obsessions and compulsions are a continuous quest for safety and control but they tend to isolate the individual because they are so consuming.”

For Thricely?, music and dance were composed in tandem, with composers Dale Hitchcock and Chapman-Tripp Theatre Award nominee Tane Upjohn-Beatson attending rehearsals to ensure unity between the two. The result is a soundtrack that is tightly scripted and danceable, but also quirky and idiosyncratic. It plays with compulsive sound effects and unusual arrangements to keep the dancers and audience in a comfortably uncomfortable headspace.

Staged at Photospace Studio on Dixon Street, the show’s location gives symbolic contrast to how obsessive and compulsive behaviour has historically been addressed, or more specifically, how it hasn’t. In a location designed for capturing images for dissemination, Costello hopes to achieve the same for a disorder that is often kept concealed by its sufferers, and stigmatised by others. “When we look at the nature of obsession through an artistic lens, we can see a little of ourselves in the restless compulsions, which makes you wonder how far we are capable of going to gain control over our everyday lives.”   

Thricely? Precisely. A Pocket Full of Pips.
Where: Photospace Studio, Level 2, Dixon Street
When: 7:00pm, Wed 17 Feb – Sat 20 Feb, Tue 23 Feb – Sat 27 Feb
Tickets: $16 General, $14 Concession, $12 Fringe Addict

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Brigid Costello

Hannah Elks

Jane Wenley 


Director: Brigid Costello

Producer: Kathryn Jackson

Stage Manager: Thomas McGrath

Music & Sound Design: Tane Upjohn-Beatson & Dale Hitchcock

Set Design: Taj Whitesell

Lighting Design: Rachel Marlow

Dramaturg: Jackson Coe

Publicity: Alex Rabina

Obsession skilfully crafted

Review by Jennifer Shennan 19th Feb 2010

Well, this was an enigmatic hour, for sure, with three highly skilled dancers, 30 somewhat bemused spectators, a tiny very warm space, unrelentingly repetitive aerobic movement, with a soundscape to match, and only a final sequence with props (mattresses and jars of green peas) to back-announce the piece.

There is something compelling in stylized unison movements of dancers, and these performers – Brigid Costello, Hannah Elks and Jane Wenley – are particularly fluid movers with a impressive degree of technical control. Centring, balancing, turning, falling – none of these is natural or easy, they are just meant to appear so, and they did. Synchronized group movement makes further demands, which they met with aplomb.

In a venue with no space between performers and audience, there are issues of perspective and proportion to consider however. We had plenty of movement to watch, but it is shaping of choreography that frames our viewing.

The theme of the piece is the cross-over of repetitions in dance movement and in the gestures of obsessive compulsive behaviour. In that respect the work was true to its claim, but all dance needs a choreographic framework, even if discreetly disguised. A libretto, or a dramaturg, can sometimes help, but there is further challenge when a choreographer appears in his or her own work – the ‘wood for trees’ problem.

There’s challenge here, since there’s no such thing as a School of Choreography to attend, just instinct, hard work, musicality, courage, something to say, and trial & error – as well as attentive study of the work of master choreographers. 

It is patently clear that Brigid Costello has talent for dance and theatre. (Her production of Jean Cocteau’s The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party at Bats in last year’s Fringe, was a tour de force.)

I hope that she will next consider tackling WB Yeats’ Plays for Dancers. These are rarely performed, mystical marvels, with scope for theatre, dance and music. They reveal an Irish mythology, and with a name like Brigid, it’s a surefire.

It was after all Yeats who asked. “O body swayed to music, O brightening glance – how can we know the dancer from the dance?” Usually we can’t, but in the case of Thricely? Precisely, we could.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Alex Rabina February 21st, 2010

Thank you for your review Jennifer. One correction, though - The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party was produced in September 2008 at BATS, and was not part of the Fringe Festival that year.

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Strong and courageous demonstration of internal conflicts

Review by Jenny Stevenson 18th Feb 2010

Hans Christian Andersen’s Princess proved her royal birthright by her sensitivity to a pea placed under twenty mattresses. In Thricely? Precisely. A Pocket Full of Pips the discovery of the rogue pea is the catalyst for three women who display obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms to break free from the cycle of their neurotic behaviour.

As a premise for dance choreography this work is highly sophisticated and gives a totally refreshing slant to what is still quite a hidden topic. A type of danse verite, it has been collaboratively devised by Brigid Costello, Hannah Elks and Jane Wenley to explore their ability to demonstrate “internal conflict through physicality,” as Costello, the director, states.

Through their research, the dancers discovered that the neuroses often stem from a desire to keep safe, so the decision to set the dance in a child-like, fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme world seems entirely appropriate. The dancers use simple props to magnify the obsessive-compulsive traits of each person: jars of green peas for the ‘hoarder’, oversize-oven mitts for the ‘hand-washer’ and mattresses for the ‘order anxiety’ disorder.

The decision to set the work in a small photographic studio, posing as a bedroom, heightens the sensation of the claustrophobic world in which the women are trapped. Inevitably the choreography is also restricted by the space, but it does seem apposite to the subject matter. 

The three performers are lovely dancers with strong classical line and beautiful extensions. The work by necessity involves a lot of gestural movement that does not always allow them to fully explore their inherent technical ability.

The music and sound design by Tane Upjohn-Beatson and Dale Hitchcock is, as they describe it, “harmonically minimal” and plays a huge part in reinforcing the concept of entrapment, as does the moody lighting design by Rachel Marlow. The dancers’ white costumes have oversize ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ pockets and frills, which emphasise the girlish qualities of the performers.

The denouement of the work is subtly achieved through an abrupt shift in the atmosphere of the work, heralding new beginnings for the three women. Thricely? Precisely … is a strong and courageous work that gives prominence to a condition that constitutes a real hell for many.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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