TURANDOT; NeTTheatre and Gruppa Coincidentia.
New Town Theatre, Freemasons’ Hall, Venue 7, 96 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 3DH, 0131 220 0143 4th -27th August (no performance 17th) at 1500 hrs.
Running time: 55mins, no interval
Review: Mark Courtice 12th August 2011
Bloody but fascinating riddles
Puccini was dying as he wrote Turandot – indeed he died before he could complete it. Meanwhile, according to this performance, he was picking over a scandal that had dogged him over his relationship with a servant.
His diary recorded this desperate time, and perhaps explains the frantic nature of Puccini’s masterpiece. Here it is chopped up and used as the basis of a clotted exploration of cultural colonialism and the fashion for the "exotic Orient".
The music is chopped up too, with beats behind Puccini’s score and scratchy vocals. The text is rendered in different languages (there is a large cohort of sign language translators on stage) and is sometimes reduced to wordless screams.
Apt and horrifying images of China today flicker loomingly behind the action, puppets dance and writhe, and the agonising process of treatment for Puccini’s throat cancer is graphically awful.
It’s confusing, involving, frightening and baffling by turns. If Puccini was exploring the limits of the possible in terms of performance for his generation, his followers are doing the same for us. The performances are visceral, often wordless, gutteral, difficult to ascertain. This is apt, as Turandot hinges round riddles and the bloody consequences of getting the answers wrong.
What for instance is the meaning of the sequence of torturing fruit until the blood flows? It may be a comment on the blood-boltered world of Turandot, which opens with an execution; perhaps it doesn’t have to make sense. Either way, it’s intriguing, there’s plenty to look at, and seems timely when Edinburgh’s official Festival is featuring the real Orient with its Asian programme.
Cast: Dagmara Sowa, Katarzyna Tadeusz, Iga Załęczna, Paweł Chomczyk, Mariusz Laskowski
Written and directed by: Paweł Passini
Visual effects: Maria Porzyc
Music: Pawel Passini
Stage design collaboration: Michalina Kostecka
Sign language tutor: Magdalena Urbańska