I think we might have something really rather special here. I say might because with under a week to go the cast strikes me as a little bit underprepared. For their sake I hope there is still enough time because The Barefaced Night is shaping up to be a very intriguing production. 

Previews are underwhelming at the best of times, but I felt especially cheated here. The Barefaced Night tells the story of a princess who finds love with a man cursed to be a bear by day and human by night, but ehen the princess’ desire to see the bear drives him away, she begins an epic journey to win him back. This epic love story encapsulating what seems to be every style of dance from ballroom to ballet, hip hop to martial arts, and including spoken word, improvised music and live recording, is going to be something of spectacle, something that the low ceilinged Buttery at Wolfson College doesn’t really do justice.

Despite this, there was much that shined through. Importantly this a strong ensemble cast of dancers, committed, bursting with energy and also great fun. The wide range of choreography oozed creativity and was expertly handled. It is often, and surprisingly, very witty, but I wont give these wonderful moments away. Tanner Efinger as Valemon the bear is outstanding. By far as good (who knows, if not better) as any you performance you will see in a straight play at the Burton Taylor, he is intense, moving, versatile and most of all, incredibly charming. Praise must also go to the onstage band who play a whole host of original music, again of a wide range of different styles and on an equally wide range of instrument (some of which I don’t even recognise).

My only concern is that this is a dramatisation of a Scandinavian folktale. With so much jammed into one production, the finished product has the potential to feel a little confused on stage. The spoken word too for me feels a little bit pretentious–not the words themselves but in their delivery. Currently delivered in a calm, wispy, reflective solemnity, they need the passion and flare of dancing to be truly moving.

Nevertheless I cannot wait to see how it all ties together. If it works, and it most certainly has the potential to do so, The Barefaced Night will be among the best productions this term. Fingers crossed.

4 stars