Basil Twist brought his much anticipated Rite of Spring to Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival this week, and I found it to be a refreshing and thrilling evening of theatre. Mr. Twists uses air, light, gravity, fabric, paper, and the music of Stravinsky to enchant and surprise the audience. It is an abstract puppetry that brings life to simple objects and the theatre itself.
Fireworks references the Italian Futurist Giacomo Balla’s design for the original production in 1910. The curtain reveals an abstract melange of grey and white figures that could be buildings or creatures or both. The shapes are all unsymmetrical and whimsical. They light up and move around and the result is quite charming and magical.
Pulcinella Suite employs long white cylinders that first appear as simple objects, but are then transformed into a school of fish, a large galloping qaudriped, a boy and a girl dancing, a gigantic tree, and a flock of birds. The transitions are delightful and surprisingly moving.
Rite of Spring concludes the evening with a barrage of visual effects that astound and shock the eyes. Mr. Twist and his team pull off an ambitious work of total theatre. Walls of fabric cascade from the sky, one after the other. Some ripple down quickly while others float languidly. Light and shadow sculpt the fabric beautifully. Large chunks of paper fall from the sky and are crunched up and torn apart after they mutate from white to black. Smoke billows behind a silk curtain. The walls of the theatre seem to move and reshape themselves. At the end a dancing figure appears surrounded by a flurry of fabric. This is a sensual feast set to Stravinsky’s audacious score.
Mr. Twist succeeds beautifully in this endeavor. I look forward to seeing the future of his work.