A collaboration between Belgium’s idiosyncratic theatre/dance director Alain Platel and the musician Fabrizio Cassol, Requiem pour L. (L = elle, the French word for she/her) is performed against the backdrop of a slow motion black-and-white film showing us the last hour or so of a woman’s life.
She lies on a flower-print pillow, the static camera focused on her face. You get the sense she’s not in pain; she’s calm, she has caring people around her, she’s slowly letting go. It’s a harrowing image. It’s also beautiful in a poignant way – at times almost unbearably so.
The instruments are voice, percussion, electric guitar, accordion and euphonium. The articulation between Mozart and the African rhythms is truly superb. The operatic voices of South African baritone Owen Metsileng, mezzo Nobulumko Mngxekeza and Brazilian counter-tenor Rodrigo Ferreira soar with heart-wrenching purity in sections like Confutatis and Lacrimosa.
Elsewhere, Congolese popular singing takes over, carried by a trio of black voices; and the pounding rhythms of African music are often accompanied by a vigorous stomping and clapping choreography for singers and musicians alike.
The words mix Mozart’s Latin text with its translation into African languages.
The idea is to find a harmonious blend between two seemingly opposed concepts: the prevailing Western notion of mourning the death of a loved one; and the lively and joyful celebration of a life ended, which is the norm in many African cultures.
In attempting that fusion, Platel and Cassol imagine a different kind of ceremony of mourning, which is neither Western nor African, and interweaves joy and celebration with moments of contemplation. The sequence where first one singer, and gradually all the cast face the dying woman as she breathes her last is profoundly affecting.
Alain Platel, founder and director of las ballets C de la B is known for his restless exploration of what stage performance can offer. At times shocking, at times scandalous, his work never less than challenging, and forces audiences to have a renewed look at humanity and its possibilities.
Requiem pour L. confronts us with our own mortality in a way that is both sad and joyful, serene and boisterous. It is a unique work, one that, should you feel able to abandon yourself to what it proposes, ends by bringing true catharsis.
|What||Fabrizio Cassol & Alain Platel, Requiem pour L. Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
20 Mar 18 – 21 Mar 18, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 40 minutes no interval
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Well website|