The versatile and talented performers tell their three stories by creating multi-layered physical tapestries made up of ritualistic choreography interwoven with song. The overall effect is at once intriguing and strangely soothing.
There is something mesmeric about the blend of music and movement in Teatr Zar’s Gospels of Childhood: The Triptych in St Giles’ church and the Pit at the Barbican Centre. Zar’s versatile and talented performers tell their three stories by creating multi-layered physical tapestries made up of ritualistic choreography interwoven with song. The overall effect is at once intriguing and strangely soothing.
The first of the triptych, The Overture, depicts the resurrection of Lazarus in, appropriately enough, the shadowy cavern of St Giles’. The dying sunlight fades through the vaulted windows to be replaced by flickering candlelight while the sonorous Gregorian chanting jars wonderfully with the abrupt convulsions of life returning to the risen Lazarus.
The second story, Essays on Suicide, is a burst of destructive energy staged in the Pit amidst showers of broken glass. Glass so real and so shattered that several audience members were sharply reprimanded by a bossy usher for fingering the fragments strewn on stage in the second interval. The title tells you all you need to know about the happiness of the ending.
The final instalment, The Calling, returns the audience to St Giles’, plunged into darkness by this time, for a spirited exposition of 18th century poet Juliusz Slowacki’s notion that the goal of humans should be to prepare our physical forms for angelic possession.
Common themes and performance techniques thread through all three chapters: the four elements are always prominent, every member of the company seems capable of an almost ferocious range of postures and the music remains stirring and mysterious throughout.
The Triptych runs long (both intervals are 30 minutes) but it is well worth investing your time in such an unusual and evocative evening.
Gospels of Childhood runs until 2 Oct.