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 Post subject: The Temptation of St Anthony
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2003 12:25 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Is it an opera, a musical or what? There is dancing, so it seems fair to include this topic, especially in the context of the future of Sadler's Wells:

The Temptation of St Anthony
By Lyn Gardner for The Guardian


Has Robert Wilson been spending time at The Lion King? You certainly wonder, such is the amazing similarity of the opening sequence of his latest show to the Broadway and West End hit musical. Hand-held skeletal birds on long poles are carried up the aisles and through the audience and on to the stage where the third century hermit, St Anthony, is having a hard time pondering the nature of life and belief.

It is not just the puppetry that turns out to owe something to Disney. The message is sweetly bland too: that the world is a big place and we can all live in harmony if we only respect the diversity of each other's beliefs. It's a nice thought, but it doesn't make for very exciting theatre, unless you enjoy watching the lighting designer having a really good time and using every colour in the palette.

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Not a tempting prospect
By Robert Thickness for The Times


FIRST the good news: it seems that you can’t fool all the people all the time, notwithstanding telly and Tony Baloney. Having received nothing but awed reverence in Germany, where it was premiered in June, this collaboration between the 1970s cult director Robert Wilson and the civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon was handed the politest, coolest, least-willing round of applause it has ever been my pleasure to hear at a London first night. If this is the kind of thing we are to expect as Sadler’s Wells plunges once again into the world of music theatre, then God help them — and us.

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 Post subject: Re: The Temptation of St Anthony
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2003 12:28 am 
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THEA NERISSA BARNES posted this review, for which many thanks, elsewhere and I have consolidated the two topics here:

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All right guys………, yaw’ll need to back off………!!!! Sure the similarity to Lion King is there but it is minimal at best. Take it from someone who knows. And if from now on any one who uses puppets on stage or does a processional down the aisle are compared with Disney’s Lion King what are we asking of people, what are we asking of art? I’m board with those of you who can’t allow artists to be inspired by ideas that belong to all of us; to shape in their own way, those inspirations that roll up on the shores of life. Lion King does not own the use of puppets!!! In fact the idea for puppetry finds its inspirations and its plural boys and girls, in the Orient and Africa; puppetry of a sort has been used for centuries. I have seen the use of puppets lately in theatre presentations in particular Shockheaded Peter. Maybe you didn’t see this?? I don’t understand your dismissal of Temptation on these grounds.

Perhaps the music, a use of African American and Africanist practices in music and movement that got confused. Maybe it was the deliberate use of young and mature voices to blend into an ensemble voice that was more textual than just simply soprano, altos, and baritones. Maybe it was the bodily narrative, full bodied and slim, young and old and slightly infirm but not deterred. Sure I did not understand the significance of the blue cardboard palm tree that flew out never to be seen again and the gear flying in to take the rather weak prop for the pile of gold. I found this bit of stagecraft wanting. I also found the changing of the lights busy and did more to illustrate the choices of the lighting designer making. The busy lights distracted from those points when the lights truly worked to emphasise some of the spacial arrangements and duets. I also found that at points the band was too loud and drowned out some of the solo voices. Who ever was mixing sound needs to rethink the acoustics of Sadlers Wells. It is this that I believe may need to be looked at not the ability of Sadlers to host musical theatre.

Beyond this I was moved by the voices and rocked in my seat to sounds of the ensemble singing “Hypocrite” (even with the fingers boys and girls because maybe if you knew the church women I knew you would have nothing to say except giggle from remembrances) and “It’s Gon’ Rain” and was touched when the oldest gentleman sang “I knew the Carpenter’s Son”. Excuse me but in some art practices a church service is a piece of theatre. Church is where sacred merges with secular and produce an event that has lots of resonance of its own, a kind of theatre of life. Maybe the sensibilities were unfamiliar to you. And another thing, we can sit through endless reams of classical music that quote each other and sound similar, an adagio is an adagio by any other name and they all use the same notes, even jazz but you mean to tell me that every piece of gospel has to be different somehow new and not connected? Hymns are hymns and the genre of gospel has its own canon. If a song meets the requisite characteristics why is it wrong? Gospel like any other form uses its foundation to create new renditions and there is supposed to be a thread. So where is the fault in Reagon’s choices, excuse me? Or were you expecting some new innovative entity? Seems like something else is at work in your critics than meets the eye!

I gasped as Anthony was tempted sexually and tested by the possibility of rapturous love by three voluptuous women or one young man in the song “God is Love”. I did have to think where is Wilson going with this. Still the whole thing with all its flaws made me contemplate. Sure the message of St Anthony is a naïve one in view of 911, the Boston Arch Diocese paying victims of abuse by members of its priesthood, Libya paying relatives of victims, Blair and the dodgy dossier and the tribulations that seem to be endless for the people of Iraq, Liberia, and Belfast. But Temptation at the least made me want to hope. Hope that you guys will one day see the variety in trees we got in the various forests instead of making out there is only one tree and one forest and two: made me look again at the world from my small out post and think we all got to find an ark cause it’s raining. You can make of that what you will………!

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THEA NERISSA BARNES

<small>[ 15 September 2003, 02:28 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Temptation of St Anthony
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2003 1:33 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
A resistible temptation
Political correctness mars Robert Wilson's view of St Anthony. By Anthony Holden for The Observer.

It is dispiriting, to say the least, to discover in mid-middle age that the patron saint whose name you bear was a sanctimonious prude. Such is the character of the hallucinating hermit presented by the modish designer-director Robert Wilson in Bernice Johnson Regan's 'gospel musical', The Temptation of St Anthony, loosely based on Flaubert's 1874 novel, inspired in turn by Breughel's painting.

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