Review: Michelangelo Drawing Blood

Suzanne Duffy 10 May 2013

Michelangelo Drawing Blood

Mumford Theatre, Tues 8th May, 7.30pm

Michelangelo Drawing Blood was nothing if not diverse; the performance from Sound Affairs ties together elements of dance, theatre, Renaissance music and cinema. Unfortunately the mixture of visual and aural experience, which strived for unity, succeeded only in creating confusion.

The performance explores the relationship of Renaissance man Michelangelo with the male body, and the intensity with which he pursued his artistic goal. A naked Stephano Giglioni was a sculpture to Aaron Jeffrey’s Michelangelo, but the problem with backing their intricate dance with music from a live orchestra was that audience attention was focused on the former entirely. Therefore when the dancers left the stage, as they did frequently for up to ten minute intervals, the music itself no longer seemed enough.

Although plaudits must go to the musicians, in particular the excellent countertenor James Hall who delivered an eerie and assured performance, it was difficult for an audience to tune back into a solely musical performance after being dazzled with an array of other mediums, including a projection screen showing a wide variety of images relating to the art of sculpture, including candles, various body parts and, for some mysterious reason, food.

When the dancers were on stage, some of their more impressive work involved Michelangelo ‘sculpting’ the nude Giglioni, literally bringing a work of art to life. The relationship between the artist and what he produces was cleverly reversed as the sculpture began to first mirror then pre-empt what Michelangelo was doing, effectively sculpting himself. This was a concept that culminated in the final few minutes of the performance with Michelangelo being picked up by the Giglioni and placed, supine, on the very slab of stone that the sculpture originated from. The lighting, designed by Andy Hamer, made this transition all the more effective in highlighting the sculpted and majestic nature of the naked human body

In its more abstract moments, though, the choreography grew too self-indulgent as Jeffrey writhed on the floor for long periods, apparently struggling with inner artistic demons. It was so prolonged that by the end of the sequence I was not sure what he was supposed to be doing, although he was doing it very intensely. The crescendo in the music at this point contributed to the bathos that the production suffered from generally during the middle section as it hinted at a peak that simply never occurred.

Altogether, I had difficulty realising what this production was trying to achieve, and although segments of it were fascinating, the overall piece was just too dissonant to be successful.

Suzanne Duffy