Culture

Review: Tao of Glass | Manchester International Festival

0 15

By Janet LaFonatine
Photography: Tristram Kenton


As the house lights go down in the Royal Exchange Theatre a single spotlight remains lit, picking out a middle-aged man in the front row, who seems oblivious to the light shining on him. A minute or so of confusion follows as the audience nervously giggle amongst themselves, wondering if this is some sort of malfunction until the man begins to speak, revealing himself to be Phelim McDermott – the director of the show, and as it turns out, the narrator and sole actor.

What follows is a beautiful tapestry of fragmented scenes that layer story, make-believe, philosophy, magic and musings on the nature of creativity. Ten new Philip Glass compositions accompany the visually arresting narrative, adding sublime layers of mood and texture to the storytelling. We learn that McDermott has had a lifelong obsession with creating a piece to Glass’s music and, aided by three puppeteers and a small ensemble of musicians, he acts out his journey through a collage of different vignettes, each enhanced by ingenious use of props and lighting: puppets formed by tissue paper, a self-playing piano, giant concentric metal rings that rise and fall above the stage, a cascade of sheet music tumbling from the lighting rig, a cat’s cradle of Sellotape that first encircles then traps McDermott. Each scene is astonishing in its design and execution.

There is a main thread that runs throughout the piece and joins together what on the surface look like disparate fragments. McDermott explains the Japanese art of ‘Kintsugi’, a technique whereby broken vases are repaired by a golden glue, thus making a new and more beautiful object out of broken pieces. As a metaphor for the show this works perfectly as the Tao of Glass was born out of an abandoned attempt to bring Maurice Sendak’s ‘In The Night Garden’ to the stage – a production that never saw the light of day due to Sendak’s passing just months after their initial production meetings.

Glass himself appears in the final scene to play piano and the standing ovation at the end is thoroughly deserved for this enchanting and brilliant story about our journey through life, the threads that hold ideas together and the music that is adored by millions worldwide.

About the author / 

aAh!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Leeds Festival 2019: Five Unmissable Acts

    Written by Georgina Hurdsfield In less than a month, on Friday 23rd August, Leeds Festival will be making its big return for their 20th anniversary, now that deserves a big cheer! It will mark the end of festival season for most, and with some of the biggest names in music headlining the festival, it is…

  • Live Review: Saturday @ Blue Dot 2019

    Written by Daniel BroadleyPhoto credit to the photographers of Blue Dot The Saturday at Blue Dot marked the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and mankind taking its first steps on the moon. We marked the occasion by starting the day with a vegan katsu curry for breakfast, catching some incredible musical acts, and watching a…

  • Live Review: Friday @ Blue Dot 2019

    Written by Daniel BroadleyPhoto credit to the photographers of Blue Dot You’ve got your boots on as it’s a bit muddy from the now past rain. You’ve a warm can of beer in hand, a questionably strong bottle of rum and coke in the bag, and you’re on your way to see some good music…

  • Review: Surviving America’s Most Hated Family

    By Ben Thompson Louis Theroux’s latest documentary for the BBC saw him revisiting the Westboro Baptist Church – the infamous church in Kansas, USA, best known for their ‘God Hates Fags’ rhetoric. Having previously documented the small church in previous installments in 2006 and 2010, Theroux was no stranger to the church’s vitriolic rhetoric. The…

aAH! Radio