Arts Festival Review: Rapt

By Bernadette Rae

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 Rapt , by Douglas Wright. Photo / John Savage
Rapt , by Douglas Wright. Photo / John Savage

When Douglas Wright sets his stage with a big grey wall, it's a wall with an enigmatic, palpable life of its own.

If he furnishes his proceedings with a shiny white box on wheels, it is proscenium arch high and can spin like a dervish.

When he specifies a therianthrop, that mythical man-with-an-eagle's head, then that eagle head becomes a veritable godhead, with an omnipotent gaze - and apocalyptic yellow shoes.

Wright has always been the master of arresting visual image, rich in meaning, fuelled by a piercing intellect, eclectic imagination and a punishingly, specific point of view.

Then there is the dance!

It comes this time, explosive, lyrical and distinctively Wright's own via nine brilliant bodies, and set to Heinrich Biber's The Rosary Sonatas, Wagner's Lohengrin, Rodgers' and Harts' Blue Moon, beautifully crooned by dancer Will Barling, Lionel Belasco's Carmencita and original compositions by David Long,
Rapt deals with themes of loss of identity, sanity, serenity and ultimately with death.

Three empty chairs move ouija board style in the work's early moments.
A desperate humanity is variously portrayed; through the moaning and muttering residents of a madhouse; or as two beings quietly suffocating in conjoined gasmasks while the opiate of the people, The TV, orbits dangerously out of control.

But there are also themes of hope, of rebirth, and the very first image is a filmed one in which an angelically chubby, naked, baby boy gently pees into his cloudlike couch, and smiles. Later comes the Zen Buddhist koan: "show me your face before you were born."

The magnificent Sarah-Jane Howard, another astonishing talent, dressed in a brief and gauzy dress of springlike green, dominates the stage with her creative goddess power and beauty, the comparatively gentle Kelly Nash, in a tunic of ocean blue, her close ally.

The beautiful bodies of the dancers in full Wright flight - and much of the music - sing of hope and passion, albeit against the odds, in Wright's eye.

But the most magical moment of seeming rebirth comes in Alex Sasha Leonhartsberger's heartstopping solo. His slender frame is very different to the stocky original, but so completely and utterly embodies Wright's own magnificent dancing body in this moment of total transmutation, that it hurts.

*Rapt runs at The Civic Theatre till Saturday

- NZ Herald

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