Beyond the Seven Seas, The Place, London

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The Independent Culture

In this double bill, Maresa von Stockert wanders in and out of narrative. A deadpan voiceover (Russell Raisey) tells stories.

In this double bill, Maresa von Stockert wanders in and out of narrative. A deadpan voiceover (Russell Raisey) tells stories. The dances develop alongside the story, as illustration or digression. It's quirky, but concise. Von Stockert is deliberately inconsequential, but she has a sharp sense of phrase and step.

Beyond the Seven Seas, which was part-funded by the Jerwood Choreography Award, is about the son of a fisherman. Theo admires seagulls and hates the sea. His father, the fisherman, has a professional dislike of seagulls. When the father's boat is driven on to rocks and smashed, he gets a job in a fish restaurant, and then disappears.

Whatever goes wrong for the characters, the piece always remains dryly cheerful. There's a lot of rather gruesome comic detail: the knots that Theo has to learn by heart, seagulls caught on baited strings, the father recording the floating times of kitchen utensils in the flooded restaurant.

The dance has the same mix of absorption and absurdity. Two men sit mending nets, getting tangled up with pocket knives and thread. Three women, sirens or seagulls, stretch and preen. The steps are sinuous and well projected. Von Stockert's company arch on and off furniture, hitching themselves into handstands, without losing their poise or their matter-of-fact delivery. Later, the women return as restaurant customers, claiming plates of sardines. As they pounce, forks at the ready, Jeremy Cox's soundtrack brings in the theme from Jaws.

After all this sardonic detail, Von Stockert shows us a simple myth. One of the seagull sirens, Katryn Jackson comes back as a mermaid. She slithers in like a seal on dry land, pushing with her hands, nets wrapped round her legs to make a trailing fishtail. One last wriggle, and we can see she's back in water, free to move fast in spite of that tail. She rolls and whisks across the stage, with fishlike darts from pose to pose. Her head and feet flick, nets slapping the ground as she kicks. It's surprisingly beautiful.

Nightmares in Black and Green is another story about Theo. In this one, grown up, he gets married and moves to a house with apple trees in the garden. There are only two dancers (Pacho and Roberta Pitrè as Theo and his wife), who munch their way through several apples while Raisey describes a terrible housewarming party. Conversation keeps drifting to awful childhood memories, from the horrid death of Theo's guinea pig to a guest's claim that breast size is related to apple consumption. In their duet, they twist and slither to an Astor Piazzolla tango number, falling and tangling around the furniture. Eventually they split up over an anniversary disaster, and Theo is left to fall in love with an inflatable doll.

It's a weaker piece, with much less dancing. Von Stockert ignores her story's digressions: no more mermaids.