Saturday, 4 April 2009

Inferno/Purgatorio/Paradiso - Romeo Castellucci

Romeo Castellucci
Societas Raffaello Sanzio
Spill Festival 2009
at Barbican Theatre

Presented as three separate events – Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, Romeo Castellucci has dismantled, exposed and transformed Dante’s epic text into a truly lived experience.
Using a profoundly visual style, Castellucci creates a deeply unsettling world forcing you into a hauntingly beautiful nightmare, engaging all your senses in an experience you are unlikely to forget. This is highly visceral theatre, full of provocative experiences not for the faint-hearted.

Inferno traditionally tells the epic tale of a struggle between heaven and hell, between God and the devil and between the living and the dead. Castellucci transports this story to the here and now, placing into question the future of humanity.

Depicting images of family life, Purgatorio is uncomfortably set in a fraught domestic space where the use of vivid imagination protects against a tormenting reality.
In an intimate installation, Paradiso creates the ultimate frame where small groups of viewers are sent on a journey to try and find paradise.

Direction, set design, lighting and costumes by Romeo Castellucci
Original music by Scott Gibbons
Choreography by Cindy Van Acker and Romeo Castellucci

The work of Romeo Castellucci and Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio is considered by artists and audiences worldwide to be highly influential in contemporary performance. Having created a new non-narrative theatre, a visual language that directly challenges traditional forms, Castellucci’s visionary work is uncompromising and always surprising. Making impressive large-scale work that questions our entire human condition, Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso has a company of over 60.
Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio has previously been presented in London as part of LIFT; Tragedia Endogonidia at Laban (2004), Genesi at Sadler’s Wells (2001) and Giulio Cesare at Southbank Centre (1999), also at Battersea Arts Centre withBuchettino (2001).
Having been performed as part of the Festival D’Avignon 2008, this is the UK premiere of Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso (bite09 SPILL Festival of Performance) and one of the few opportunities to see the complete trilogy performed together.


"Inferno" with each of these digits displayed back-to-front 
gatewaying out to us: it is us who are in this hell. each united 
letter is spluttering white light and soundscape of electrical 
shorting and buzzing is loud and abrasive.
throughout this piece the sound provides its centre moving 
through dangerous electrical sounds and loud noises of 
violence to choral sweetness.
one by one each of the "Inferno" units are removed leaving 
only the framing " " which remain for the duration at each 
side of the stage.
Romeo Castellucci comes on stage, announces who he is 
and is dressed in protective soft armour as eight large 
alsatian dogs are brought on and and chained across the 
front of the stage. loud barking offstage and by the dogs 
in front of us. one by one three dogs run on to the stage 
an attack Romeo, holding on to him. we have to take the 
image of aggression and animal attack while filtering out 
the happy tail wagging by the dogs.

a large black cube slowing arrives in the centre of the stage, 
a huge black sail billowing above it. the black drapes are 
pulled up to reveal a cubed crèche of toddlers happily encased 
and playing.
Andy Warhol walks slowly on with a polaroid, takes a picture of 
us, turns to look at the children, turns back to us and slowly 
falls in on himself.

The children are re-covered and removed, a shiny skull is left 
behind which Andy Warhol takes and places beneath a huge 
mirrored swinging wall, which lowers slowly on to break it like 
a nut.
A boy with a basketball, each bounce amplified to terrifying 
sounds, a sense of something else behind him

A great sea of people with their different coloured clothes 
slowly pout across the stage, fall down and wash as one 
mass backwards while differently aged individuals step 
forward to hold the ball replacing the boy at the front. the 
final older woman appears to greedily eat the ball 
accompanied by sickening sounds of gluttonous eating.

And so it drifts through a series of images, always slowed 
and certain and seemingly endless: 
a series of loving tableaux replaced later by a series of 
mimed throat slashings, the slow climb one by one on to 
the returned black cube, then the arms spread wide in 
some sort of universal supplication only to fall backwards, 
again and again, backgrounded by a projected list of 
Andy Warhol's works with their dates, a back projection 
of the names of deceased members of Societas that 
seemed sentimentally discordant with the rest of the piece, 
a grand piano is set alight and we watch it burn
a white horse the arrives as the sea of people are rewound 
slowly back from whence they came to then be poured 
over with vivid red blood.

and then the return of Andy Warhol to take another 
polaroid of us and then to disappear into the wreck of 
a smashed car.

somehow while it is all interesting enough the 
accumulative effect is of a scenographic hypermarket 
with the chance to view what's hot in this season's range 
- a bit too look at me look at me. but a treat for all 
that to get theatre this different from our more 
usual literary plays...



after a long queue we are let in to the space to see a huge 
dazzlingly white cube structure, a small entrance in one 
corner into another smaller white light cubed space, 
around black hole entrance into darkness. inside this final 
space is first the sound of falling water and as eyes adjust 
we can see we are in a larger black space with a waterfall 
cascading down the back wall. there are other sounds too 
and looking up we see the naked upper torso of a man at 
the top of the waterfall apparently struggling - to free 
himself? to communicate? - evidently unhappy and caught 
in this perpetuity, and yet dangerously precarious suspended 
above this black waterfall: misery in his stuckedness but were 
he to get himself free the drop would destroy him. 
this is an apparently small piece but absolutely perfectly formed 
- the fusion of image and sound burn a permanent imprint so 
that - unusually for me - i can still easily re-summon up the 
remembered pictures days afterwards. this is a vision of life 
ever after that is oppressive in its small stuck foreverness, 
somehow all the more plausible for its absence of fire and 
brimstone or colour and movement. a superbly realised perhaps 
even heightened by our having to make a special trip to the 
barbican and queue for some time for this 5minute moment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

brilliant review... great in helping me understand the aspects of each performance