I had been looking forward to viewing this production at Spazju Kreattiv since it was first announced. Composer and video-producer Ruben Zahra’s work is known for pushing the envelope and for offering a fresh take on classical themes, so I figured that the visual of the Madonna cradling the body of Christ – arguably made most famous by Michelangelo’s sculpture in Carrara marble – would also likely hold a few surprises under Zahra’s direction.
Sadly, thanks to the current health restrictions, viewing the project on site was not possible. Happily, however, Zahra too has embraced the digital shift and made the work available to audiences online. As expected, this interpretation turns our understanding of La Pietà right on its head, with Zahra inverting the roles as a draped Jesus figure is seen holding the female nude in his arms.
What follows is a sensual fusion as we follow dancers Julia Lundberg and Chakib Zidi, the choreography in turns soothing, violent, passionate, playful and poignant. Never once leaving their initial position, the couple keeps the audience mesmerized, a re-interpreted sculpture come to life against all odds.
Lundberg is perfectly cast in this role of this re-imagined Madonna, her long hair working in perfect cohesion with the choreography as the impeccably-executed movements leave her sometimes hidden, protected from the audience, and at other times vulnerable, exposed, her nude form almost reminiscent of the Carrara marble that made the Pietà so famous .
Zidi likewise shows his fettle as dancer, reeling us in from what would normally be viewed as a ‘limited’ position that turns out to be anything but. Both dancers rise to the occasion of what is a technically-challenging choreography to execute. The latter is devised by Francesca Tranter, an imaginative piece that re-confirms Tranter’s mastery and her ability to move beyond pre-conceived ideas of contemporary choreography.
Music (by Zahra, with electronic music placing by Mario Sammut and mixing by Matthew James Borg) and lighting are a crucial aspect of this video production. Moritz Zavan Stoeckle’s chiaroscuro exercise adds considerable mood, gravitas and depth. Everything is brought together through nuanced filming by Sam Chetcuti – Cyberspace AV.
Undoubtedly, the production will raise some eyebrows as it’s as much of a departure from the traditionally religious figure that’s imbued in the collective consciousness as can be. However, Zahra has never shied away from controversy, albeit never falling into the trap of controversy for its own sake, and the audience is the one that benefits from his strong artistic identity.
Check out other features about art, such as this theatre piece based on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, this art exhibition that celebrates the female form or this initiative that makes French artworks accessible locally.
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