Forget Zeus and his retinue of gods and godlets. For real power in the ancient Greek cosmology, look to the Moirai, or Fates. Born from Necessity and Time, the Fates rule your life. You may have dominion over your next latte, but the big issues are determined and portioned out by three women: Clotho, who spins the thread of your life; Lachesis, who measures it out; and Atropos, who snips it off. Of all of them, Atropos is the most terrifying. She’s a walking telomere with a pair of shears, ready to do her work when you step out into moving traffic because you’re so fixed on getting to that latte.
Despite their power, though, they rarely appear as characters in their own right. Most often the Fates are invoked by others, or show up as shadowy figures at the worst possible moment. They have remarkably little agency apart from the people whose destinies they attend – in other words, they have almost no story of their own. Which raises the question: what do Fates do when no one’s around? How do these mythological embodiments pass an archetypal Bechdel test?
House of Three, a collaboration between Globe Theatre and Fadadance, has a few ideas. Mostly they revolve around string, salt and suitcases. Which seems fine to me.
Heather Cameron, Misty Wensel and Fran Gilboy play the three characters of the title, negotiating ideas of relationship, art, belonging and destiny through dance. They’re also the choreographers and producers. The figures of the Fates are starting points for the characters they portray, but I would guess that they developed new ideas throughout the creative process, finding ways to deepen the characters and add to their stories.
It doesn’t take long for House of Three to find deviations and wrinkles in the source material. The three women find themselves at the beginning of the performance wearing one interconnected garment. Cameron brandishes her shears and cuts them free from each other, a move that unites notions of birth, identity and death in one handy snip.
From there the dancers begin to explore the spare set, each slowly developing an identity through the objects they manipulate. The show hits its peak with the second of three main sections, in which the three dancers create and erase symbols, patterns and mandalas by spilling salt (or sand?) on the floor. There’s something hypnotic in watching Cameron, Gilroy and Wensel drawing spilling careful circles of salt, only to draw swirling, wave-like patterns with their hands and feet.
The third section, in which the three characters dance with suitcases, feels pensive and slightly sad (or it did for me). The suitcases may indicate a literal departure, or may represent the growing sense of separation between the three – the unavoidable result of difference and the accumulation of time.
While I enjoyed House of Three, the Shumiatcher Sandbox venue presented a few problems. From my seat, a pillar obscured a vital part of the stage, with the result that I missed several minutes of Cameron’s dancing. Similar problems caused me to miss part of Wensel’s performance early on, when she took up a position downstage and promptly moved out of the line of sight of the back two rows.
But this is a very minor quibble with an otherwise wonderful performance. As with Wallpaper and Honey, the previous collaboration between Fadadance and the Globe, the result is a challenging and beautiful piece that brings dance to a wider audience.
House of Three ran from April 19-28. To buy tickets to Globe Theatre plays, visit them online.