Sacre- the Rite of Spring, Sydney Festival

Sacre – The Rite of Spring

CarriageWorks, Sydney, January 5.

RAIMUND Hoghe’s intensely personal response to Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps is almost too private to watch, demanding a depth of concentration from the viewer that comes close to voyeurism. On one level Sacre is a series of repeated movements of an everyday kind, plain and perhaps banal: walks, shuffles, supported balances while standing, arranged poses while lying, that sort of thing. Yet as performed by Hoghe and Lorenzo De Brabandere they take on a degree of meaning that is poignant, intimate, challenging and complicated.

Lorenzo De Brabandere and Raimund Hoghe. Photo: Rosa Frank
Lorenzo De Brabandere and Raimund Hoghe. Photo: Rosa Frank

The men’s double act of mirroring and copying is seen against the backdrop of Stravinsky’s score, which is played in the composer’s arrangement for two pianos. The instruments, bathed in soft light at the back of the otherwise empty space, are of course facing each other so the two players, Guy Vandromme and Alain Franco, can see one another. Symmetry is important here although it’s somewhat fractured, given the physical dissimilarity between Hoghe and De Brabandere.

Again and again they face one another, fingers entwined or palms pressed together as if one is the distorted mirror image of the other – De Brabandere the taller, younger, more agile, more straight-spined self. Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and wanted to see something different, one thinks? But Hoghe, who is by far the more potent presence on stage, doesn’t buy into that. He puts himself out there without apology, a man of short stature with a crooked back who claims for himself, and therefore for others, the right to be seen.

There is a suggestion of anger, or perhaps frustration, in Hoghe’s repeated windmilling arms that end with a thwack to the thighs and De Brabandere occasionally flaunts his physical superiority. Overwhelmingly, however, there is a powerful and calming sense of connectedness in the shared rituals.

Vandromme and Franco play Stravinsky with a degree of lyricism that makes the score – 100 years old in May – complicit in Sacre’s intent. It sounds fresh and strange – shocking even, which is a very pleasant thought given the work’s initial reception (although to be fair, Stravinsky has taken the rap for Nijinsky, whose choreography was really the casus belli).

The opening-night Sydney audience appeared underwhelmed but I think it’s all about context. Sacre isn’t a wham-bam party piece. It’s an act of reverence and contemplation.

Deborah Jones

Ends February 8.

This review first appeared in The Australian on February 7.

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