Light in the Darkness is based on a trilogy that was continuously created from 2007 – 2009, which aimed to introduce the visual and metaphorical richness of the physical theater imagination to audiences.The work started with the motif of unrequited love in “Virginie”, the motif of dying love arising from the haze of memories in “The death of Marquise de Sade”, to the love that is passionate, sinful, and devilish, encountered in “Dante”.
The poetics of the entire work move from the surreal and decadent towards elements of rococo and mannerism. The various scenes recall the first paintings by Salvador Dalí, the work of Giorgio Chirico and the films of Jan Svankmajer and Peter Greenaway.
Authors, performers: Miřenka Čechová, Radim Vizvary, directing supervision: Petr Boháč, music: Matouš Hekela, J. S. Bach, stage and costume design: PetraVlachynská, Lucia Škandíková, lighting design: Martin Špetlík
What the critics are saying:
“With their two amazing, infinitely malleable bodies — oozing like melted rubber one moment, hard-edged and dangerous another — the two performers conjured up a thrilling phantasmagoria. The stage became foreign turf with only the merest echoes of reality… That’s the great gift of Tantehorse: As stylized, mysterious and preoccupied with death, sex and violence as these creations were, they sizzled with life. The source is the intensity of those finely calibrated bodies.”(Washington Post, Sarah Halzack June 3, 2013)
The Death of the Marquis de Sade
- On the Dark Road
Dante-Light in a Darkness
If I were writing a one-word review, that word would be “Astounding.” But much more deserves to be said about Tantehorse‘s The Death of the Marquis de Sade & Dante, a ‘Must-See’ production at Atlas Performing Arts Center that presents the second and third parts of the Czech company’s larger Dark Trilogy.
Atlas lists Tantehorse’s run under both Dance and Theatre on its website, and even that bit of promotion shows a strong awareness of the company’s resistance to genre. Tantehorse describes themselves as “physical mime theatre,” but that description barely scratches the surface. The company blends Czech pantomime, Japanese Butoh, physical theater, and mime with modern dance and puppetry to create a type of theatre that isn’t a European style as much as it is Tantehorse’s specific modus operandi. All of the disparate production elements come together to form a beautiful, surrealism- and Baroque-inspired whole. Lighting Designer Martin Spetlik influenced by Chiaroscuro paintings, spends as much time using shadows to define the figured on stage as he does simply illuminating them. And the sound and music by Matous Hekela is done live during the performance, giving the soundtrack and the performers additional freedom in their work. Under the guidance of director Petr Bohac, Tantehorse has brought us something amazing here and the only flaw in the piece is the knowledge that we’re only getting a small glimpse of Tantehorse’s work.
There’s no narrative to summarize, which is a strength rather than a weakness. At a post-show talkback, actress and Founding Artistic Director Miřenka Čechová said that the company prefers to let the audience build their own narratives, drawing on their own experiences and associations to construct a personal version of the performance. Instead of a narrative, Čechová and Co-Founder Radim Vizvary (the only two performers) provide a constant stream of images, metaphors, and conceptual relationships. While the two halves of the show are clearly separate pieces with their own internal aesthetics, they also create a satisfying whole based on shared themes. Both parts explore the relationship between the male and female characters, and the way that each objectifies and projects on the other. Both share a fascination with consumption as a physical and sexual act, blurring the lines between eating food and being physically intimate. And both sections display a fascination with the way that death reduces a person to their component parts and paradoxically allows them to expand and display new dimensions.
I used the word ‘astounding’ to describe the production, but there are others that are worth mentioning. The production can be grotesque, concerned as it is with the ways in which humans are reducible to bodies. The company delights in sudden turns of darkness, as when a playful clay-mask pantomime becomes affectingly sinister, like Mummenschanz by way of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. The production is also physical in a way most theater (and even dance) barely reaches. The movements of the actors are incredibly precise and specific, but bodies function as props and sound-generators as well as sites of drama and projected longing. Breath-taking is a good term for the both the impressive physical work done by the company and the amazing images that we’re presented with. The stage-lights go down between each vignette, and I had the urge to leap to my feet in applause after each and every one. The show is also necessarily sensual, keeping the audience constantly aware of the physical nature of the performers’ bodies and their proximity to each other. And finally, the production is (offered without commentary) charmingly funny.
The Death of the Marquis De Sade & Dante is one of those energizing works of art that serves as a reminder of the fluid boundaries between artistic disciplines. It’s also a reminder of the ways that brave artists are pushing the limits of theater itself, and of the offerings available to theatergoers who are brave enough to seek them out. If you’re interested in theater, whether as an art-form for as pure entertainment, you owe it to yourself to make the time and see this show.
DC Metro Theater Arts
06.01.2013 Justin Schneider
If I say the term physical theatre to you, what do you think of? Most likely your answer will be Synetic right? Well yes, Synetic with its dazzling choreography and intense approach is one form of physical theatre. But while Synetic is the only company in our area that performs in this style, there are other companies doing the same thing in other parts of the world. Tantehorse Physical Mime Theatre from the Czech Republic is one of those companies and their three day stint in the Sprenger Theatre at the Atlas Performing Arts Center this past weekend proves that this is a theatrical form that there is not nearly enough of in this country.
Here’s hoping Tantehorse Physical Mime Theatre comes back to the states soon so more of you can see their genius.
The program consisted of two sections from the company’s Dark Trilogy. The first was The Death of Marquis De Sade- On The Dark Road, which asks what does Death think about when he comes for us and what would happen if Death took on the face of a child and forgets about his job for a while? It is a world where human sins come to life like harmless monsters.
The second piece was Dante which basically says hell exists within us just as we contain within us the promise of heaven. Pretty intense stuff right?
Director Peter Bohac staged the show with minimal scenic elements, which is very effective. There are only two performers Mirenka Cechova and Radim Vizvary who are very well known in the Czech Republic for their work with physical theatre. I totally understand why they are so loved. Their grace and style in creating these unsavory characters is something to watch. There actually are two more performers in this show and they are Lighting Designer Martin Spetlik and Sound Designer Matous Hekela. The soundtrack in the show sounds as if the actors are triggering the cues with their movements.
Actually Hekela is running the show through a DJ set up and while watching the action he triggers the cues in perfect synchronization with the performers, which makes the sound just another one of the actors. Spetlik’s lighting effects are another part of the experience. Plunging us into darkness at the top of the show and gradually building to shafts of light and tight focus on areas of the stage he creates the world of hell as he envisions it. When the two components of light and sound come together with the two performers, you end up with a performance that is stunning both visually and audibly.
Tantehorse finally made it to the US after some obstacles last year, which canceled an announced engagement at Synetic Theatre’s performance space. I’m glad everything worked out this time because here was a chance to see a gentler form of physical theatre performed by a really good company. Here’s hoping Tantehorse Physical Mime Theatre comes back to the states soon so more of you can see their genius.
Maryland Theatre Guide
06.05.2013 Elliot Lanes
The dead can’t dance, said Prokofiev, voicing doubts about the ending of his ballet “Romeo and Juliet.” But clearly, he had no idea what he was talking about.
The dead not only danced at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on Friday, they romped, wrestled, played with toys and made love. If the Grim Reaper is anything like his portrayal in two wordless physical-theater works, “The Death of the Marquis de Sade” and “Dante: Light in a Darkness,” I can hardly wait to meet him.
For now, it’s tempting to trust that Mirenka Cechova and Radim Vizvary, founders of the Czech Republic’s Tantehorse Company, have Death pegged. In “Dante,” he’s a ravishing seducer with attention-deficit disorder. Shirtless and wielding a carving knife, Vizvary stalked his prey (Cechova, momentarily comatose) on silent cat feet, while his arms and shoulders rippled like massive wings. It was a swimming, soaring, floating locomotion I’d never seen before, not at all human.
That was true of the whole evening. Cechova and Vizvary, both based in Prague, have backgrounds in ballet, mime, clowning and Japanese butoh dance — in short, they embody a treasury of physically expressive theater arts, and they brought them all to bear in the two brief works. But you couldn’t separate the dancing from the mask technique, the mime from the butoh. With their two amazing, infinitely malleable bodies — oozing like melted rubber one moment, hard-edged and dangerous another — the two performers conjured up a thrilling phantasmagoria. The stage became foreign turf with only the merest echoes of reality.
It was also full of surprises. Once Vizvary, as Death, claims Cechova, he dances with her lifeless form, and it’s creepy and laugh-out-loud funny. She’s a marionette in his hands, her long dancer’s limbs snapping up to meet his as if he’s pulling them by strings. He yanks her onto pointe, makes her spin and twirl. A corpse de ballet! They waltz crazily. Bit by bit you see her rigor mortis thaw, as if she’s remembering something of life.
Then Death gets distracted by a puppet, and his victim exacts her revenge. Lucky for us, she takes a good, long time to do it. It turns out hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned; dead girls don’t like to be jilted. If things were weird before, now it’s a sadistic, sexy horror show, and wonderfully alive.
That’s the great gift of Tantehorse: As stylized, mysterious and preoccupied with death, sex and violence as these creations were, they sizzled with life. The source is the intensity of those finely calibrated bodies. Every shift and gesture holds the eye. In “The Death of the Marquis de Sade,” when Vizvary and Cechova don masks, their arms and hands become so energized, they’re like firecrackers. Emotions fire in every move. Martin Spetilk’s shadowy lights and Matour Hekela’s haunting sound design added much to the depth of feeling.
Cechova last performed here in November, in her tour de force solo about the transgender experience, “S/He Is Nancy Joe.” This program proved her brand of theater — they call it “physical mime theater” — is even more potent with a partner.
To read a preview piece--by Kaufman--about this production, click here.