The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, Manchester International Festival: The Lowry, Salford
Wednesday 13 July 2011
For the neutral observer who might have come to be entertained, enthralled, provoked, maybe even all three, entering into the Lowry for the staging of Robert Wilson's recreation of the life and death of the world's greatest – and most challenging – performance artist is not a moment without trepidation.
This after all is the woman who spent 736 hours last year standing motionless in her MoMa retrospective. Wilson, the veteran avant-garde theatre director enlisted in the project by Abramovic herself, is someone with a similar reputation for testing the commitment of the faint-hearted.
It was a feeling that didn't do away when staff warned me the first half would be "difficult" but to stick with it because in the end it would come together. Perhaps all this was what spin doctors would call an effective exercise in managing expectations.
Whatever the intentions, the fear of a long, difficult three hours ahead evaporated immediately. Wilson has advised audiences to go to his work as they would a museum or gallery. And what unfolded was a series of masterly scenes, predominantly from Abramovic's unhappy early life with her abusive mother, growing up in communist post-war Belgrade. Each episode is exquisitely executed in haunting slow motion – the time she is injured in a bizarre washing machine accident; her attempts at DIY cosmetic surgery; the year she's mistakenly hospitalised as a haemophiliac. Stunningly lit with a coruscating soundtrack and a sublimely tender score, written and sung by Mercury Prize-winning artist Antony Hegarty, the tragic-comic vignettes flow gorgeously past your eyes and ears, leaving you with a profound sense of the uniqueness and strangeness of life.
Abramovic plays her mother, creating a wicked fairytale caricature of the woman who sought to crush her early dreams. Willem Dafoe carries the narrative toward the final death scene. Part Weimar-era nightclub MC, part Tom Waits, his performance is stunning. By the end the audience are on their feet. Many will have come here already aware they were entering the presence of genius. For those of us who discovered it for the first time, the night was even more special.
To 16 July ( mif.co.uk)
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 3 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 4 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
- 5 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Cilla, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith embodies the young singer perfectly
Tyler, The Creator says having new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly