If art is food for the soul then watching La Verità on its opening night at the New Zealand Festival was akin to devouring the most elaborate banquet—no matter how much I ate, I continued to be greedy for more.
There is nothing like the anticipation of waiting for the festival to come to Wellington, and one only hopes that each and every show will fill them with the kind of elation that you will only ever experience through transformative moments in life: the birth of a newborn baby, or being in the presence of loved ones as you say the words, “I do.”
La Verità begins with a narrator who guides us into the world we are about to witness.
Enter a parade of female and male performers in white bodices donning spectacular feather headdresses and large feathered fans, taking to the stage in a cabaret-style scene reminiscent of 1920’s old world burlesque.
The choreographed dance sequence plays out comically as if we’ve been taken behind the scenes of actors in rehearsal mode. They expose us to a world where tension and jealousy reside in a hierarchy where there is always someone who missed out on the lead role and wants to be centre stage.
This sets the unexpected tone for the absurd, twisted and beautiful vignettes that follow.
Set against a backdrop of Salvador Dali’s painting, ‘Mad Tristan’, Swiss director and choreographer Daniele Finzi Pasca takes us on a journey of magical proportions, engaging us with snapshots of relationships that move seamlessly into miraculous acrobatic feats.
Highly stylized trapeze work explores themes of love and relationships as a man and woman establish their close connection before us; their union is based on their ability to remain in physical contact, to keep one another from falling as they move in a sequence suspended well above the clouds. Should one of them fall, it would be unbearable for us all and the very notion of everything we have ever known about love would come crashing down.
The acrobatic elements are masterful and executed with great precision, showcasing the dexterity of the performers and their athletic prowess. We watch in amazement as they push their bodies to their absolute limits— all of it taking place within the context of stories and the building of relationships—the very stuff that continues to keep us hooked.
This is a playground of exploration, where dreams merge with reality and intensely beautiful scenes are intentionally interrupted by clownish characters—sometimes in Dali masks—who use pure physical comedy to lighten the tone while we await the next surprise.
There are many things worth noting in this production; the ethereal voice of the female singer, who, later performs a stunning composition using glasses of water as her instrument; the life size puppet whose heart feels more real than your own, or the petite acrobat who you can’t take your eyes off because she has an uncanny ability to move with both energy and stillness all in the same breath.
Individuals are cast according to their unique talents, drawing us into the moment and making the St James Theatre feel surprisingly intimate. The chorus work is equally strong—a sign of great direction, but also of a company who commit to their craft.
Lighting, sound and music were woven together in the most exquisite way, adding to the layers of meaning and complexity, building the environment that all of our dreams are made of. While Dali’s surrealist painting is used to trigger discourse about the variant nature of interpreting art.
I’m a big fan of physical theatre and the idea that movement can propel a story forward.
Here, in La Verità an investment of the physical works on so many different levels—the obvious being pure spectacle and a means to showcase physical strength, but more importantly, conveying what it means to be human—to make connections with others and go to that place of sometimes heartbreaking vulnerability and fragility.
Being brought to tears watching a man on a trapeze isn’t something I’d expect to experience in a theatre performance. In fact, I’m still taken aback. But there is so much beauty to be had in the presence of a performer who brings you into that magical space where you feel his level of exertion through each intake of breath; to those moments of suspension and utter stillness, bringing us ever closer to our greatest truths and fears.
La Verità is a finely crafted international production where the storytelling is aided by physical risk juxtaposed with monumental moments of profound beauty. The only downside—I couldn’t always understand the narrator because his diction wasn’t clear through his accent, but it didn’t seem to matter because he switches between languages and sometimes even in gobbledygook; its the language of comedy and his physicality that bridges the communication gap with the audience.
I was sated, if not transformed by a show that left me wanting to communicate my experience. It was hilarious, energetic, entertaining and elegant, seeking to answer the very question that is so pertinent to the craft of theatre but also to life itself: what is truth?
If you ever felt that part of you was dead inside, then this is a show that will reawaken all of your senses in the most unimaginable and magical way.
La Verità runs at the St James Theatre until 7th March.
La Verita is a show that will reawaken all of your senses.