- Deborah Chu
- 3 February 2020
Manipulate 2020: A confusing parade of colourful characters, going nowhere
Imagine if, like in Cats, the cast of Beltane introduced themselves to their audience individually. This is essentially what occurs in Transfigured, but why, exactly, does this have to happen? It's hard to say.
In broad strokes, the production takes inspiration from noted surrealist Leonora Carrington's belief in art's transformative ability, seeking to transport audiences to 'a new world of the imagination and experience'. Initially a spirit of friendly, improvised chaos is given rein, as the performers engage the audience in nonsensical chat in-between their introductions, the order of which is determined by an audience member drawing a card from a deck. The wild costuming and live musicianship is certainly striking, as is the performers' physicality and dedication to their personae. It's clear that quite a lot of detail and care has been put into fashioning each character; this individual colour, however, is not enough to salvage the general tedium into which the production descends.
Though a few songs, like 'A Specific Goddess', do cause a few hairs to rise in the Dissection Room, most fail to elicit much of a reaction from the audience, no matter how tremendously the performers give it their all. What begins as an intriguing concept quickly wears thin, as its riddle-like lyricism and earthy, 'pagan' aesthetic fail to make much of a point, other than to shock and perplex. Spectacle can indeed be transportative; but true transformation requires a substance that unfortunately Transfigured lacks.
Reviewed at Summerhall, Edinburgh.