Reviews, News and Commentary

Auckland Arts Festival. The intelligent, ingenious and irrepressible Revisor

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Auckland Arts Festival


A Kidd Pivot Production, created by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young

Aotea Centre

March 9 – 11

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In “Revisor” choreographer Crystal Pite  and theatre-maker Jonathon Young bring together the worlds of theatre and dance with Pite’s extraordinary dancers performing to the voices of Young’s actors.

It’s a biting cabaret-like satire revealing the corruption and absurdity within a bureaucratic institution and is based on “The General Inspector” by 19th century Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol.

The director of a provincial branch of a governmental institution is made aware of the arrival of an inspector. He mistakes this inspector for a low ranking official who is actually there to move a comma within a report. The impostor lets them  believe he is who he isn’t with a bureaucratic and absurd outcome.

The dancers are impelled by the edgy music (Owen Belton, Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe) and the lip-synced dialogue, some of it by Jonathan Young but  most of it taken from the play.

The dancers responses and movements are exact and definite, reacting to the words and music as through articulated mechanical figures, their arms, legs and bodies contorted and gyrating to the words and sounds. At other times the dancers seem more reptilian both individually  and collectively as they slide and slither across the stage.

The opening set which is of the office of the Director of the Complex features his desk around which much of the action occurs, referencing one of Pite’s previous works at the Festival, “The Statement”, where four characters around a boardroom table are tasked by an  unseen power to fuel a conflict in another country.

Much of the music recalls the sounds of another Pite work, “Grace Engine”, performed  at a Wellington festival which used an electronic soundscape to provide the dancers with the impetus to dance.

Pite takes every simple movement and turns it into an elaborate gesture and each gesture finds a responding gesture from another dancers so there are waves of movement and reaction which spreads between dancers and across the stage in some wonderful displays of bodily movement, dance and mime.

All of the dancers provided remarkable performances with a couple of  standout displays.  Gregory Lau (The Revisor) was transfixing  in his dancing to the repeated and reworked phrase “the subject is moved” while Rakeem Hardy as Postmaster Wieland was startling in his convulsive exposure of the Revisor’s true identity

This is inventive dance at its best with surprise, drama and wit in each of the danced interactions. There is a lot of intense physical dance as well as sequences of rapid angular movements, with inventive duos and solo’s, their dancing emphasising the notions of action and reaction, tension and release.

The work is carried along largely by the narrator (Meg Roe) who provides some of the story as well as describing in detail what the dancers are doing in terms of their interactions with each other. Then at other times she becomes the persona of Crystal Pite giving choreographic directions.

The lighting was an essential component of the work offering  dance-like interactions. It was cleverly used both in terms of spotlighting the individuals and groups of dancers  but also to highlight the structures and shapes of bodies.

This is probably one of the best things on at the festival this year, but hurry there are only two more performances.

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By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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