'The Temptation of St. Anthony'
Music and Lyrics: Bernice Johnson Reagon; Producer: Robert Wilson
September 2003 -- Sadler's Wells, London
Wilson’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony” opened the new season at London’s
Sadler’s Wells. It marks a fresh departure for the theatre and its new
Chief Executive Jean-Luc Choplin. Firstly, it is musical theatre rather
than dance and secondly, in a new role, Sadler’s is one of the producers.
Thea Nerissa Barnes believes that much of the criticism is misplaced and here mounts a passionate defence of Wilson’s new work.
All right guys -- back off! Sure the similarity to “The Lion King” is there but it is minimal at best. Take it from someone who knows. And, if from now on anyone who uses puppets onstage or does a processional down the aisle is compared with Disney’s “Lion King,” what are we asking of people? What are we asking of art?
I’m bored 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 it’s 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.
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 spatial 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 Sadler’s Wells. It is this that I believe may need to be looked at
– not the ability of Sadler’s to host musical theatre.
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
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 that there is only one tree and one forest. Secondly, “Temptation” made me look again at the world from my small outpost and think we all got to find an ark cause it’s raining. You can make of that what you will …
Edited by Jeff.
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