dance-drama Ruination is a cheerful anti-Nutcracker

Hannah Shepherd-Hulford (centre) as Ruined Medea at the Linbury Theater – Alastair Muir

For all that Christmas revolves around a birth, many of the tales we associate with it are deadly operative. From Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents (and the nightmarish 16th century Coventry Carol, which it inspired) to Andersen’s The Little Match Girl to The Snowman, mortality is everywhere.

One could say, then, that although the retelling of the Medea myth by top British dance-drama troupe Lost Dog is presented as a cheerfully out of season confection, the story of a woman who helps a warrior steal a fleece d’or, then apparently murders their two children when he dumps her is actually as festive as a pie. But let’s not be too contrary – if you’re looking for an antidote to the current John Lewis seasonal ad, this remarkable new confection is it.

Ruin is performed in Linbury’s underground theatre, and the fact that the Royal Ballet’s snow-dusted Nutcracker is offered upstairs on the main stage is comically exploited. This is, as Jean-Daniel Broussé’s Hades happily points out, an anti-Nutcracker, as protean as Tchaikovsky’s classic is predictable. And know that there’s nothing snowflake about its 14+ age recommendation. Take a four year old to this and he may never sing Little Donkey again.

Running for a hundred minutes without a gap (too long; more rhythm and momentum would help) and performed by a cast of six saucy dancer-actors, it’s the ingeniously choreographed creation of Lost Dog supremo Ben Duke, a smart, witty and quirky performer who looks like a Spanish movie star. We are in a sort of kangaroo antechamber court of the underworld presided over by Hades and Persephone, with Medea on trial, and we the nominal jury: is she really a killer? (King Aeetes, Medea’s father, and Jason’s new hurry Glauca are also involved.) The action takes place on a stripped-down stage with few props – but with a very atmospheric gateway to the underworld. itself – and with three excellent musicians on stage. delivering a sensibly chosen magpie soundtrack ranging from Rachmaninoff to Radiohead.

The sense of surprise at all costs is crucial. So let’s just say this show playfully (towards the end, in a very invigorating way) reenacts the famous myth of female revenge into a crazy courtroom drama that embraces maternal love, male cowardice, and self-delusion, and much more, playing on a razor edge between humor and horror and gives you food for thought. The cast acquitted themselves superbly, with Maya Carroll first among equals as a dancer, but Hannah Shepherd’s Medea smashing in her climactic speech.

I’ll only add that there’s also quite a bit of male nudity, an accidental peanut butter death, and a crazy scene that will send shivers down your spine. More turkey, anyone?

Until December 31. Tickets: 020 7304 4000; roh.org.uk

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