Photo: Jurg Bauman
It begins almost as a game, as a man, who looks as though he just stepped out of the audience, pushes little paper boats downstage along a strip of blue. A young woman moves into his sight, there are some words exchanged, there are also words projected on the screen. Suddenly, in a highly dramatic gesture and a loud rough voice, the Magician comes to life and orders his young slave, (a fragile but powerful Ariel) to cause a shipwreck. Then all hell breaks loose!
Violent lighting effects, intensely evocative sound effects, human-like figures being tossed about in what looks like wind, rain, huge waves and the most terrible lashing out of natural elements. The storm becomes the psychic shock that will send us hurtling into the world of Crystal Pite and her creative team, and never let us go. From the very first moments, we see that this is going to be a visually exciting event where dance, images, sound, music, film, corporeal forms and costumes, intersect in the most unexpected way to create an intermedial artistic event that is extraordinarily original and highly charged with creative and physical energy.
The evening appears to be divided into two readings of Shakespeare’s play which is also what makes it so interesting…
Firstly, Prospero, the Magician in everyday dress, appears to be orchestrating his own performance of The Tempest by manipulating his own bewitched, human-like figures completely draped in white. Even the faces are hidden. The choreography/direction of actors tells us immediately the immense stage culture of Mme Pite who takes us back to the symbolist image of the masked performer, the mime/dancer so necessary in this esthetic that insisted on the necessarily denaturalized actor in order to evacuate the human being from the stage and concentrate on the movement, not the psychological aspects of it all. Precisely here, the dancers are almost transformed into marionettes, offsprings of the mime artists of the period while capturing the extreme modernity of their movements. They destroy the traditional harmony by bobbing, twisting and disarticulating their legs, their arms, their neck, their head, in fact every joint in the body, in a strangely new found grace that is also so passionate. Their bodies become pure liquid as the performers flow within and around each other, molding themselves against the their partners, their co-dancers as though their very existence depends on an organic nourishment they draw from each other’s physical presence.
Later in the second part of the evening as Prospero is confronted with dancers who repossess their human status on stage and reject his domination, we see how Mme Pite’s dance form has fed off some of the most important choreographers of the 20th century.
There was the moment when Nijinsky’s gestures from Afternoon of a Faun suddenly appear; or Edouard Locke’s (La La La Human Steps) wild rolling over each other’s bodies and lifting in ways that often become gymnastic, became the focal points of the movement. Béjart and Marie Chouinard are ever present as is Pina Bausch in flashing, privileged glimpses of bodies that envelope each other like flowing molasses, where the legs suddenly split open in animal like postures then roll back in the most sexual and soft flowing grips that take our breath away, especially when Fernando and Miranda are finally liberated from Prospero’s power and able to show each other how they really feel.
As for the theatrical elements of the performance, there were those flashes of narrative appearing as Shadow Puppets that were breathtakingly beautiful. There was the ingenious and meticulously programmed corpus of sound effects that accompanied many of the steps, the gestures, and gave the characters as well as the dancers, an unexpected plasticity. There were the lighting effects and projections of words that kept snapping our brains from a state of physical excitement to a state of heightened intellectual consciousness that I have never before seen on a stage.
And then it is just an enchantingly beautiful performance to watch, one that leaves you wanting more when it suddenly comes to an end, the moment Prospero’s complex dealings with his family who betrayed him and drove him out to sea at the beginning and then accept him back into their society, are played out in ways that suggest the deepest desires of those who wanted to get rid of him in the first place.
An exciting adventure that will open new horizons for theatre goers as well as lovers of modern dance, of film, of music, of modern art and of all forms of creativity that find their way into this admirable work.
Don’t miss The Tempest Replica. It plays September 27 to September 28, 2012
The Company Kid Pviot presents The Tempest Replica
Choreographer Crystal Pite
Composer: Owen Belton
Sound designs: Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe
Voice: Peter Chu and Meg Roe
Lighting Design: Robert Sondergaard
Set Design: Jay Gower Taylor
Projection Designer: Jamie Nesbit
Costume Designer: Nancy Bryant
A co-production of the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt), Gemeinnütziger Kulturfonds Frankfurt, Monaco Dance Forum and the National Arts Centre of Canada Dance programme. .