Hey Girl!, Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, Paris

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The title sounded a bit cosy for a Romeo Castellucci production. After Tragedia Endogonidia and crashing cars and abandoned babies on stage, the last thing you’d expect is street life and wolf whistles. And indeed we got the opposite: a languorous opening scene of primeval slime, fleshy matter dripping gloopily, sinuous secretions from which a naked woman slowly emerged and took on human form.

It sounds repellent and I’m almost embarrassed to say it was hypnotically beautiful and had a visual resonance that you find all too rarely on stage.

This exquisite intensity flows through much of what Castellucci calls his “drama of movement”. True to type, we got almost no words. This tragedy of everyday solitude is played out in the deepest of human silence, well offset by gravelly electronic music. Female archetypes are conjured up and fuse, the androgynous tiny blonde and the voluptuous black woman being variations on a theme of universal human experience. Lipstick and perfume burn in the swish of Joan of Arc’s white-hot sword. A whispered litany of beheaded queens is cut short by a muttered “enough medieval shit”. The white woman’s body rhythmically pushes the wheel of futile effort. The black woman, enslaved in chains, is freed to dance, phosphorescent and silvery, in total darkness.

All the Societas Raffaello Sanzio’s work has its share of cruelty and unrelenting nakedness and this got some boos and people stomping out. But there was none of the self- indulgence that spoilt some earlier work, even in disturbing scenes such as the 36 shadowy men silently beating the woman, or the laser beam drilling into her skull as household words flashed by overhead. What did bother me was the projection of extracts from Romeo and Juliet, which broke the spell by intruding an outside frame of reference and making us hunt for meaning.

Hey Boy! is next on Castellucci’s to-do list.

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