Friday, 29 March 2013

Review: Michelangelo Drawing Blood

This is a piece I wrote originally for The Tab, Cardiff. Find them here

The most recent production from Sound Affairs, Michelangelo Drawing Blood, was recently hosted at the Sherman Cymru and The Tab went along to check it out.
            Sound Affairs are known for their theatrical innovation and their combination of music, cinema, theatre, dance and video. Michelangelo seems to embody the epitome of their creative intentions, bringing together original compositions, dance and video, as an attempt to represent the driving forces behind the Renaissance master, Michelangelo.
            Charlie Barber’s original compositions are played on instruments predominantly lost to the Renaissance period and rarely heard in our present moment. Influenced by sixteenth and seventeenth century composers such as Gabrielli, this performance captures the essence of the period perfectly, taking the audience through a temporal transportation. This palimpsest of performance, which combines the art of the Renaissance with the technology of the twenty-first century allows for a beautifully layered, dreamlike insight into the mind and life of the artist.
            The stage opens, smoke billows out, the instruments strike up, accompanied by choral passages performed incredibly by countertenor James Hall, and the audience are drawn into another world. The beauty of this performance comes through its visual simplicity, using the music to set the scene. At the centre of this minimalism is the actor Stefano Giglioni who performed in the nude, representing the male models which inspired the artist so passionately. He moved as though a living statue, the infamous David moving across the stage. The striking simple beauty of his performance, contrasted with the frantic visions of the artist, captured the sense of the body as an artistic subject and its eventual transformation into marble sculptures.
            Through the twisting, passionate dance of Aaron Jeffrey, adopting the role of Michelangelo, the vision of the artist is captured, along with the passionate bond between artist and subject. His performance delves deeper than the creative passions of the artist; it also explores his inspirations and influences.  He twists and observes the body of the subject, he lies on the ground grasping for the light, pained. He is desperate to seize his inspiration and to transfer it to art. More than this, the fervent argument surrounding Michelangelo’s supposed homosexuality is also hinted at, the animate sculpture holding and raising the artist in a powerful embrace.
            A scene which proved to be the most striking was one in which the stage was bisected by singular beam of golden light, separating the artist and subject, the two connected by two lengths of cloth grasped in their hands. This moment expressed the intimate bond between the two whilst encompassing the separation which holds them apart. They twist and strain at their bounds, unable to breach the separation, whilst the lulling sadness of the music accompanies their struggle.
            There are no ‘hold your breath’ moments in this production, it may not set your heart ablaze, but its beauty is undeniable. For those with a passion for Michelangelo and the Renaissance period, this performance captures it beautifully. For those who have less of an interest, it may prove a little too subtle. If nothing else, this proves that Sherman are consistently hosting excellent and alternative theatre that the students of Cardiff should definitely be taking advantage of.

Lauren Sourbutts @IrvingFlashman

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