Sunday, February 28, 2016

GO DOWN, MOSES - Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016

Romeo Castellucci's Go Down, Moses

Text by Claudia Castelluci and Romeo Castelluci. Music. Scott Gibbins.

Cast: Rascia Darwish, Gloria Dorliguzzo,Luca Nava, Stefano Questorio,Sergi Scarlatella.

Extras: Karen Beins, Kim Browne

Societas Raffaello Sanzio. Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016. The Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre. February 25-28. 2016

There are many reasons to attend an Adelaide Festival of Arts. One is the opportunity to see acclaimed international works that will be performed nowhere else other than at the festival. Some are narrative dramas such as the brilliantly staged The James Plays trilogy, currently playing in the Festival Theatre, and able to be seen individually over a number of days or all on a single day. Others may be startlingly avant-garde or experimental, challenging the intellect, probing the psyche and transforming the perception of a modern world . Romeo Castellucci’s mind-blowing evocation of the Moses legend, Go Down Moses is such a production.
Castelluci’s art is layered with a multiplicity of meaning. With an ensemble of seven actors, he explores the very depths of the human psyche in a series of revelatory images that expose the frailty and desperation of the universal human condition. A wandering group of contemporary people, like ghosts within an ethereal universe of whiteness confront the power and weakness of the tribe, the oppressor and the oppressed, caught in a cycle of perpetual behavior. A woman bleeds profusely inside a locked toilet cubicle, bearing the eternal pain of her sex during childbirth. The stage, enveloped in fog, emits a deafening roar, subsiding to reveal a dumpster with  sounds of a screaming baby emitting from a plastic garbage bag. An inspector, attended by police and a nurse struggle to discover the motive for the distressed woman’s apparent murder of her child. The woman, drowned in delirium reveals the fate of Moses, abandoned to bring salvation to the human race, by leading them from oppression and into a promised land. An MRI draws the woman towards an ancient world of prehistoric people, huddled as a primeval tribe within the sheltering caves. It is here that Castelluci’s imagination explodes with resonating realism, a living diorama of humanity’s origin. A cavewoman, convulsed by grief, buries her dead child within the earth with a rock for a headstone. In a moment of palpable grief, motherhood is shared and the past screams out to the present in a huge SOS scrawled upon the scrim. The woman enters this primitive landscape and in a final gesture embraces the lovemaking position of the cavewoman, who has given birth to all womankind.
At the close of Go Down,Moses, I am  left with a prophetic foreboding for the salvation of humanity. Castelluci’s vision offers little hope. As he puts it in his programme note, “humanity is exiled from its being”. No Red Sea parts. We are not led from the Egypt of our torment towards God’s Promised Land. And yet, Go Down Moses is not anarchic, or atheistic. It is a revelation of the human psyche and the human spirit, a powerful impulse, baffling in purpose, contentious in belief and disturbing in its prophetic depiction of a dislocated existence,fused in space and time.
Go Down Moses presents a visual feast of symbols and metaphors.Some images, striking though they are, tnd to linger,and would have greater impact if edited. Make of them what you will, for in the imagery exists a powerful comment on existence that should not be ignored. Castelluci’s vision, played out by a brilliantly focused ensemble, demands interpretation. It does not matter if you understand Go Down Moses or not. It does matter that you understand what you understand of a performance, bursting with meaning, exploding with intensity and erupting with prophetic insight.

If you ever have the opportunity to experience the work of Societas Raffaello Sanzio, do whatever is necessary to get a ticket and make of it what you will.
P.S. I notice that a fellow reviewer has damned this production with no faint praise as boring, tedious and self-indulgent. Certainly there are drawn out moments which are pregnant with the meaning that one is prepared to define. Castelluci’s theatrical vision is undeniable and an audience’s commitment to interpretation is their privilege, as it is a reviewer’s, if he or she is prepared to take the journey. My fellow reviewer was obviously not. And that is his privilege.   

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