Romeo Castellucci’s Go Down, Moses presents a succession of fragmentary, sometimes wordless scenes, played out to a potent soundtrack. Despite being the touchstone of the piece, the figure of Moses never appears; instead, the images on stage are suggestive of ideas and elements taken from the Exodus story: a mother abandoning her newborn, the slavery that has survived the ancient world and continues to hold us captive in other forms, the need for deliverance from the pain and death that life inflicts.
Words are used sparingly, but when they do appear (via surtitles) they are delivered with a raw and poetic beauty.
We start in a vaguely contemporary world with a series of increasingly disturbing images, bringing us eventually to the story of this mother (the only section of the piece resembling conventional narrative) and then concluding with the prehistoric world. The cycle of life and death is shown to be just as basic and affecting in the modern world as in the Stone Age.
This is a technically flawless production. The sets are quite astonishing, allowing the play to shift seamlessly between vignettes, while the music and sound are perfectly matched to each action. Special mention should be made of this soundscape, which is fundamental to the audience experience, alternately prompting us to feel inspired, disconcerted and shocked.
Go Down, Moses is challenging, abstract theatre that demands something of the viewer, leaving us with much to puzzle over. It’s not an easy experience and it won’t be to everybody’s tastes, but the Adelaide Festival isn’t doing its job if it doesn’t try to expand our minds and push a few boundaries. This is certainly a bold and gripping production which does just that.
Go Down, Moses is exclusive to the Adelaide Festival of Arts and will be performed at the Dunstan Playhouse until Sunday 28th February.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor