By Danielle Farrow
Tales from Ovid are told in this Hecate Theatre production by young Victorian ladies in their nightgowns on the eve of their society debuts, which they see as their transition into womanhood and which has them far too excited to sleep.
This theme of change leads into bed-time story-telling as the girls, under the watchful and oft disapproving eye of their matron, use their sheets and pillows to illustrate their fables, such as Tiresias’ copulating snakes, the pool where Narcissus is snared by his own reflection and the limbs of the spider Arachne. Some of these tales are curtailed – slightly frustrating – and, while this use of props shows imagination and achieves interesting effects, the boarding school setting is a somewhat clumsy framework that is not explored fully in what the stories might mean to the school’s inhabitants. However, each girl does have her own characteristics and these are used in who tells what tale and how, and that energy helps to keep the succession of stories from becoming too pedestrian.
The use of a backdrop sheet for a silhouetted movement section is technically unsatisfying, but the combining of voices is put to good effect at various points throughout, including in song, and there are switches in mood between the interaction of the girls and the gruesome and macabre fables they spin.
There is a sense that more could be achieved by way of dark atmosphere – it is not nearly as disturbing as advertised – and through closer connection of the material to the girls and further exploration of their relationship with the matron, creating a more cohesive piece rather than a series of tales, but this Metamorphoses still provides its thrills and a fair few shocks, created by content and able presentation that has a certain simple charm.