Before Thumbelina

16 03 2023

Before Thumbelina

Before Thumbelina

– a powerful and moving performance and display of excellent craft

Luisa Hahn

Taking place chronologically before Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of Thumbelina begins, Anna Nekrassova offers an outstanding performance. Before Thumbelina tells the story of the title character’s mother before the seed germinates, grows roots, and creates her daughter, dealing with the struggles of an unfulfilled wish for a child. Brought to life in all its complexity by Nekrassova’s performance of dance and song, the piece also points to her masterful object manipulation and puppetry.

Clay, pottery shards, dirt, water, Nekrassova’s own body – all objects brought onto the stage are subsequently turned into animated characters representing a section of the woman’s internal world, her fantasies and fears. Nekrassova embodies multiple characters at once. In one scene, she portrays a woman playing with and guarding her imagined child’s exploration of the world, Nakrassova playing the mother and her one hand playing the toddler, creating a clear distinction and simultaneous symbiosis of the two. At other times, the objects she gives life to in turn acting as puppeteers for third objects, creating a chain of animation led by Nakrassova, who keeps on adding layers to the performance. There are moments of magic-show-like manipulations, where she holds the audience’s attention in one place only to secretly exchange objects elsewhere creating illusions of growth and transformation.

Nekrassova tells not only the story of the mother of Thumbelina but also provides a strong argument for the power of physical theatre to convey the fleeting, ambiguous, and deeply existential nature of thoughts that can hardly be represented in speech. The ease with which she acts and manipulates the wide array of objects is playful and creates a natural flow in which feelings arise and lapse, changing as soon as one tries to hold on to them. Objects keep changing their meaning and turn into new characters, extensions of her imagination resulting in a captivating 50 minutes that pass too quickly.