Melbourne Festival – reviews (1)

In between rehearsals for my own show, I have managed to see quite a few others in the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Here are my thoughts (quite perfunctory) on the shows I have seen:

The Temptation of Saint Anthony

I saw this on opening night. It is a music-theatre piece in a kind of gospel-inspired style, but directed by Robert Wilson so with his trademark slowness of movement and beautiful simplicity of design. Musically, it was lovely. The singing was just stunning. But I found it hard to follow the narrative (the diction was often quite indistinct) and, being unfamiliar with the story, was not sure what was going on much of the time. A lot of the stage action seemed a little contrived, frankly. In my cruelest moment, the words, “A bit too rock eisteddfod” flashed through my mind. I felt a little sacrilegious at that, so banished the words (until now). The show felt like it took a long time to get moving. It was quite static, both musically and dramatically, for a long time. It opened with some some quite beautiful bamboo sculptures, both on stage and being carried by a procession of cast members as they entered the space singing. It had a strong sense of ritual and emotion in the opening, but then the sculptures disappeared, not to reappear again, and the pace of the show took a long time to pick up.

The most powerful moment for me was when an older man sang a beautiful, haunting song, saying, “I knew the carpenter’s son. We were boys together. We grew up togetehr.” It was a powerful vocal performance, we could hear the words clearly, and I was utterly captivated. The other stand-out moment for was actually after the performance had ended, when the curtain calls took place, and Bernice Johnson Reagon and Robert Wilson came on stage. Johnson Reagon began to sing. The whole cast accompanied her, and it was just…. mesmerising. Why wasn’t the whole show like this? I wondered. This kind of soulful music can be such a powerful emotional connector – but I had felt somewhat detached throughout most of the show. I felt like it never really hit any great heights, or wove me in to its spell. For that, it was overall, a pleasant enough evening, but a little disappointing.

Glow – Chunky Move

I had heard a lot about this piece from previous Melbourne seasons, and had marked it as a ‘must-see’ early on. It didn’t disappoint. Glow is a work for solo dancer performing in the round, where the motion of the human body triggers and controls music, lighting and animation to fascinating visual effect.

It is a hard work to describe. Visually it is constantly intriguing. The lights respond to the dancer. As she moves her arms/legs/torso, corresponding shapes and lines appear on the floor around her. As she twists and maneuvers herself, the lines and patterns also shift. It is utterly compelling and other-worldly.

One set of images reminded me of Spirograph – the drawing kits we had int he seventies of plastic discs of different sizes, with holes all over them, and plastic rings that you placed the discs within. As the dancer moved about the floor, often lying down or rolling so that her limbs were constantly moving, the lights around her created intricate spiral patterns, layering and overlapping each other constantly.

Another moment saw the whole stage covered in thin vertical lines (or horizontal, depending on where you were sitting). The dancer too was covered in these lines, and as she moved through the space she became not a body but a creature. It also reminded me of the Dora Maar photograph from last year’s Picasso: Love & War 1935-1945 exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, that S and I liked so much. The photo shows Picasso standing on a sunny day in a doorway that is shaded by a venetian or banboo blind. The shadows from the blind cast him and the rest of the balcony in stripes. S and started to plot ways of recreating that image. I don’t know if he’d done it yet. It is still on my list of photos to create. (Click here to see an interesting review of the exhibition, and a copy of the photo I am referring to).

All in all, Glow was immensely satisfying. It went for a mere 30 minutes – a beautiful miniature.

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2 comments so far

  1. animate on

    Oops! I was looking for “photograph from last year’s Picasso: Love & War 1935-1945 exhibition”
    But came here ))
    Festival is not a photo…

  2. musicwork on

    I’ve checked the link – it seemed to work for me… I hope you found the image I was referring too as it is a good one!


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