Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spoleto 4: Dresser of curiosities

When Aurélia's Oratorio begins, there is a dresser on stage. Gradually, a hand emerges. Then a head, or later a leg. Or two arms at once that seem contortionist because they emerge from different drawers at remarkable angles. A hand pours wine into a glass held by another hand. A hand dresses a stocking over a foot--then adds a shoe. Amidst much opening and closing of drawers, two separate arms and two separate feet are visible--could they possibly be connected?

Perhaps this is less surprising once we know that the show draws its inspiration from medieval manuscript illuminations of inside-out and upside-down worlds.

The show goes on like that--well, like that if that can happen on stage curtains acting as trapezes or ladders, or if there is any likeness between a chest of drawers and a coat rack. There is a likeness: they both have become frightening alive, as has a coat and a pair of shoes, and the entire rigging of the stage curtains. Puppets watch a performance in a little puppet theatre, being put on by a human head. An old-fashioned chair-taxi (carried by a person at each end, the chair held to poles) enters stage right , but carried upside down. Soon a woman comes down from a "window" in the curtains and catches a ride--she is riding upside down. A man wrestles with a coat, and loses. A man pulls a spangly skirt upside down over his head and chest, holds a woman's shoes on his hands, and using those shoes and his own (on his feet of all places) he performs a beautiful ballroom dance (though there is literally nothing to see above either partner's waist). A man and a woman perform a remarkable dance of putting on and taking off the same coat, while gypsy jazz plays in the back. A woman opens a door in her voluminous hoop skirt to reveal a sort of hour glass, that seems to be consuming her legs and then her hips and then all of her and turning them into sand--which a man later collects with a dustban, dumps into a drawer, and the woman re-emerges. A woman with a whole in her middle enters a stage where a toy train is running on an elevated track, and using her own hole-y body, becomes a tunnel.

When you come out of the show, it is remarkable that the ground stays under your feet.

How then do you look at the woman in the pool the next day, swimming with a lithe body and a long braid of finally contained hair, and believe that she is affected by the elements as we are?

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