Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot revolves around Prince Myshkin (Saburo Teshigawara), a young man who returns to Russia, having spent four years in a Swiss clinic to treat his epilepsy. Soon, his good spirit and innocence clash with the dirt and evil of the local aristocracy. This is represented on stage in the contrast between the Prince’s pristine costume and the stark, if gorgeous, gowns of Nastasya Filippovna Barashkova (Rihoko Sato), the unworthy woman with whom he becomes increasingly obsessed.
In this hour-long dance piece, which Teshigawara has also directed and choreographed, the various scenes might be easier to interpret for those who are familiar with Dostoevsky’s 19th century novel, but are equally enjoyable for those who aren’t. Regardless of its literary inspiration, this is a beautiful and strongly evocative work, representative of the choreographer’s genius and multidisciplinary accomplishments. Most remarkably, his creative supervision extends as far as the direction, lighting, costume and musical design.
Now in his sixties, this Japanese master started his training in the 80’s as a painter and sculptor, as well as a classical ballet dancer, with a plastic awareness which is reflected in his physicality and style. The Prince’s reverence for Nastasya is portrayed with delicate, barely perceptible gestures, whereas his stifling epileptic fits break out with repeated muscle clenching.
After a long courtship, where the woman appears oblivious to the Prince’s desperate longing, their chemistry explodes on the notes of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Waltz No. 2, when they frantically circle around the stage, fluttering like butterflies but hardly touching each other.
When the classical motif fades into a minimal electronic tune, a sapping game of catch and release asks for all the dancers’ stamina to depict the power of emotions. Their bodies burn on stage like flames. Eventually, the Prince gives up, confused and defeated, unable to break through the darkness that envelopes him, whilst Nastasya fades in the background.
A stunning performance is welcomed by the audience with an eager and prolonged applause.
As with some of the best-known artworks, Teshigawara’s rendition of The Idiot cannot simply just be taken at face value, but has to be absorbed at a deeper level, with its multi-layered visual and musical messages. Quintessentially minimalistic and stripped down to only two characters, it offers a bare thread which we’re compelled to weave with our own interpretation and feelings.
Original Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Choreographer and Director: Saburo Teshigawara
Box Office: 020 3642 6606
Booking Link: https://www.the-print-room.org/theatre/dance/the-idiot-saburo-teshigawara-rihoko-sato/
Booking Until: 30 March 2019