Ghosts, Linbury Studio, London<br></br> Siobhan Davies Dance Company, Sadler's Wells, London

Time flies when you're feeling clammy and claustrophobic
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The Independent Culture

Her key ploy is to show cause and effect simultaneously, bringing past and present together. Jon Bausor's set divides the stage into scullery and parlour, identical but for the white damask cloth on the table, allowing us to view below-stairs and upstairs both at once. So when the curtain rises on Mrs Alving offering herself to the local pastor in a desperate bid to escape her philandering, pox-ridden husband, we also see that husband groping the maid in the scullery. Later, when Christopher Akrill's repulsive Captain Alving finally succumbs to the disease and is laid out on the parlour table stage left, stage right we see his adult son happily rogering the result of that earlier union - his half-sister, if he did but know it - on the same scullery table. The doubling is further enriched (and only rarely over-complicated) by the presence of two Mrs Alvings - Clemmie Sveass and Charlotte Broom - one the fretting youthful memory of the other.

The clammy claustrophobia of this story can be intolerable. Knowing this, Marston brightens a few corners, inserting a gorgeous bread-making scene for the two maids in which they prance round the table playfully poking their elbows in great lumps of dough (a substance whose sexual suggestiveness is useful). There are also ravishing duets for the younger maid Johanna (an appealing Jenny Tattersall) and Matthew Hart's seal-pup of an Oswald, all bounce and hopefulness, but already stricken with syphilitic headaches.

Dave Maric's score, avidly played by a small ensemble, owes a lot to Hitchcock's films, jabbing through the sticky atmosphere like a knife or marking the domestic tedium with a ticking pulse. Grey-on-grey video of puddling rain and ice by Peter Anderson compounds the sense of endless nordic gloom. Yet to everyone's credit the ballet's 70 minutes feel short - a thing that could not always be said of Marston's previous work.

The veteran Siobhan Davies has always avoided narrative, yet there's an implied human story in every dance she's made. Here she paired 2004's Bird Song with the first piece she ever made for the company. White Man Sleeps (1988) takes its name from its score by Kevin Volans, so no clues there, and anyway all its elements have been overhauled to make what is essentially a new piece. The result is an unshowy stream of softly weighted, wide-flung moves across a bamboo-patterned floor suggesting hot sun slipping through blinds. A solo by Tammy Arjona has the skittering lightness of a crane fly batting against glass. All five dancers briefly align arms like temple statues. The repeat swinging of a limb primes your ears for the music's gamelan clamour. It's all very laid-back, giving the impression that Davies' supple, experienced dancers are working at a fraction of their capacity - beautiful but also soporific. For once I was glad not be one of the Jerwood Prommers standing in the stalls. I think I would have had to lie down.

jenny.gilbert@independent.co.uk

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