Review: Where the White Stops by Antler Theatre

Antler Theatre is a new, young company, founded only last year (2012) by a group of students who met at East 15, under the mentorship of their tutor, Uri Roodner. In this way, they follow in the fine tradition of companies such as Trestle and Idle Motion, and their work certainly lives up to that legacy.

Where the White Stops, Antler’s latest show, is the story of Crab, a young girl who dares to step outside the boundaries of her village in the far north, and chance the wrath of the Beast who roams ‘the white’, to search for something else. On her way she meets Carpenters and Kings, makes friends and foes, and battles through cold and blizzards to find the elusive place where the white stops.

Antler’s style is delightfully simplistic, creating an entire frozen world in a black box, with just a few props and costumes, and the physical and vocal power of the four performers. The show has a rich musical soundtrack, created live and a capella in two-, three-, and four-part harmony by the cast, which punctuates scenes and underscores montages as we journey with Crab into the white. The company’s physicality is evocative, from flapping each other’s costumes to create blizzards, to fluid acrobatics to demonstrate a fall into a crevasse, the world of the frozen north comes to life in front of your eyes.

The cast of four work beautifully together as an ensemble. Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart, as Crab, gives an engaging performance as she draws the audience along with her on Crab’s epic journey. Nasi Voutsas, as the mute and emotionally-scarred Wodwo, plays a range of emotions eloquently through his eyes, and demands the audience’s empathy with an understated and truthful performance. Daniela Pasquini creates a broad range of characters from the endearingly incompetant narrator to the mysterious Carpenter and the duplicitous Elija, and Daniel Ainsworth moves effortlessly between his contrasting roles of Crab’s na├»ve younger brother, Narwhale, and the megalomaniac King Softface.

Where the White Stops is pure storytelling theatre, bold and confident in its style. Directed by founder-member Richard Perryman and devised by the company, it moves smoothly between comedy and pathos, drawing on ages-old narrative traditions to create something fresh and vibrant, and touch its audience with a communal sense of a shared ritual.

The New Diorama showed their usual good taste in choosing Antler to open their Emerging Companies Showcase and, although Where the White Stops performed there for only one night, I hope that some programmers saw the show, as it definitely deserves a longer life. Keep an eye out for it coming to a venue near you next year. This is a company worth watching!

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