Naupaca Dance Factory: the sister isle’s best-kept secret?

The up-and-coming Gozitan dance company presented a visually dazzling take on the Grimm's fairy tale, in their first trip to the Maltese stage.

A visit to the kingdom’s mud bath was not as relaxing as the Queen (Deborah Agius) had hoped. Photo by Charles Paul Azzopardi.
A visit to the kingdom’s mud bath was not as relaxing as the Queen (Deborah Agius) had hoped. Photo by Charles Paul Azzopardi.


A story is only ever as good as its villain, and Deborah Agius's mud-caked, muscular Queen in Naupaca Dance Factory's The Death of Snow White was a baddie to remember, as she weaved and stomped through the Malta Mediterranean Conference Centre stage in the promising young Gozitan group's first show for a Maltese audience last Sunday.

But though Agius - who also serves as production assistant for the industrious 'Factory' - remained a highlight throughout (easily eclipsing the pretty-but inexperienced lead, Marise Grech, who took on the titular role) - the entire production is to be commended for its impressive visual bang.

Oriental-tinged costumes by Luke Azzopardi (complete with hand-embroidered embellishment by The Secret Rose) and a judiciously put together set centred around a withered little tree (which, admittedly, came close to cramping the dancers' style on more than one occasion) made for an opulent tableau which always yielded up interesting images.

The show was also a more streamlined affair than the Factory's previous endeavour: Alice's Adventures Underground (2011). Snow White's script, once again penned by in-house writer Maria Theuma, is tighter, with symbols and tropes hammered out with rhythmic precision instead of being seasoned throughout in a sometimes mind-boggling jumble, as was the case with 'Alice'.

The reappearance of 'Alice' on stage was most welcome, however, as Denise Buttigieg, the young dancer who helped Naupaca remix Lewis Carrol's tale, was once again placed centre stage as Tempastas, a sort of narrator figure who commanded a presence that spread way beyond her diminutive frame.

Masculine presence was scant, as ever, in this Naupaca production, but up until Sunday afternoon, Snow White ran the risk of braving her famous misadventure without a Prince to kiss her back to life at the end of it.

The role was to be taken up by Stepan Pechar, as it was at the show's premiere in Gozo on December 1, but unforeseen circumstances left the troupe scrambling for a replacement for its Malta show last Sunday. It's something of a small miracle that Naupaca veteran Yosef Farrugia not only stepped in to save the day, but actually succeeded in doing so without a hitch, and with nary a few hours of rehearsal.

Hats off to director Joeline Tabone for commandeering a memorable evening - stuffed with colours, images and a fairy tale re-imagining that obliterates even Hollywood's recent obsession with the Grimm's tale from memory (there have been two films this year).

The MCC's jittery sound was far from perfect - a shame for Lukas Grech's original soundtrack - and dance snobs might sniff at the production's far from austere operatic visual scale, but with 'Snow White', Naupaca have given us a very good reason to be excited about their future output... and rumour has it that the Factory will soon be hard at work adapting a particularly 'celestial' poem by one of Italy's most famous bards...

I had the pleasure to attend the M.C.C. performance and i must say that it was a truly captivating show with a pleasantly dark twist! The dancers were energetic and precise. Considering the young age of surely not more then sixteen years, I thought the young Snow White danced with flowing and graceful technique. The Queen, also gave a strong performance. Sound and costumes were also impeccable. A truly enjoyable show!