Thursday, 12 October 2006

Tragedia Endogonidia: BR. #04 Brussels, Melbourne Festiva,l Oct 12.2006

Tragedia Endogonidia: BR. #04 Brussels
Societas Raffaello Sanzio by Romeo Castellucci
Melbourne Festival of Arts
  Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, Thurs to Sun until Oct 15

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There are always conflicting views on contemporary theatre but there is no doubt that Tragedia Endogonidia is compelling, disturbing and possibly confusing for some.

Societas Raffaello Sanzio perform non-linear narrative without classical characterisation or dialogue.
Director, Romeo Castellucci, creates challenging, often confronting theatre that investigates concepts rather than stories.

This episode, BR. #04 Brussels, is perhaps more horror than tragedy. Its violence reflects atrocities witnessed in war or sadistic human rights abuses more than it does the ancient Greek notion of tragedy.

We have a visceral response to the all-too-realistic, savage beating by two police officers of a nearly naked young man. The horrific quality is heightened by the unemotional attitude of the officers and the chilly theatricality of their pouring a bottle of blood over him before reducing him to a bloody pulp.

There is virtually no dialogue apart form a mumbled prayer from the battered man as he struggles inside a plastic garbage bag.

The vulnerability of humanity is distilled in the stark, cold, white marble space, reminiscent of an enormous, bathroom or torture chamber. A tiny baby, lying alone on a blanket looking bright, perfect and adorable, is a counterpoint to the barbarity of the beatings.

An ancient, wispy-bearded man tremulously searches the clinical room - for an escape route or perhaps for meaning? He dresses in priestly robes then in a police uniform. Perhaps we are seeing the aged future of the violent officer.

A cleaner, who appears unaware that she is on stage, slowly and quietly mops the tiles. Both she and we, the audience are the objective observers.

The Angel of Death is a masked child and two Edwardian women seem to be part of the dying man’s delusional dreamscape.

There is also grotesque comic imagery: the old man wears a bikini, a policeman strips to his underwear, a woman in an Edwardian gown extracts her tooth with string, the old man disappears into his mattress.

The punishing soundscape (Scott Gibbons) intensifies the sense of actual and impending danger with the persistent roar of a hurricane. As we watch, we reflect on violence, tragedy, humanity, despair, grief and death.

The show closes with incomprehensible movie credits: life is fleeting, just like a film. But it is the squirming, bloodied body of the beaten man that is seared on the memory.

Tragedia Endogonidia manages to somehow be both meditative and distressing.

By Kate Herbert

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