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Adelaide Festival

Review: Go Down, Moses

Adelaide Festival

Are you prepared to leave your expectations at the door? To pick your way, gingerly, down an unfamiliar pathway?

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The Book of Exodus follows the journey of Moses from the moment his mother relinquishes him to the waters of the Nile, to his leadership of the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Go Down, Moses invites each audience member to construct their own narrative by presenting a series of scenes exploring the central themes of the prophet’s story – liberation, revelation, salvation – through the prism of a mother’s bond with her son.

Last here in 2000 with Giulio Cesare, director Romeo Castellucci returns to the Festival this year with his Australian premiere of the latest production by Italy’s Societas Raffaello Sanzio theatre company.

In interview, Castellucci talks of pushing the limits of theatre, of “continually elaborating on existential material” as the only sure way of taking an audience to places they’ve never been – creating disruption to reveal truth.

In an oppressive, sterile room, a group of people move about, examining faces with repetitive gestures and struggling to recognise each other. Droning factory noises provide an ominous soundtrack to a giant, spinning pole.

Alone in a toilet, a young woman writhes in agony. Later, a police investigator struggles to comprehend her actions.

In a dank cavern, two primitive cave-dwellers, one man and one woman, lie down together in the original act of creation.

What’s it all about? Each viewer will find their own way through the experience but some messages are obvious. The mystery of birth and death permeates, as does the weary monotony suffered by so many in these times of information overload and impersonality. We are exhausted by the demands of the modern world, fallen and wandering in the desert, deluged by the empty images that surround and consume us. Can we free ourselves from what enslaves us?

Each tableau is compelling and, as a whole, the work is never less than fully engaging.

Composer Scott Gibbons (US) deserves special recognition for his majestic score, which overwhelms in a way that is seamlessly suited to the imagery.

Equal parts brutal and tender, graphic and beautiful, Go Down, Moses ultimately leaves us with a sense of awe and infinite possibility.

Go Down, Moses is being presented at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, until February 28.

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