schrit_tmacher justDANCE! 2023
Pite’s „Revisor“ is a stroke of genius
Crystal Pite | Kidd Pivot performs at Theater Heerlen
by Thomas Linden
translated by Karoline Strys
When it comes to Russia on stage, the connection to the current war inevitably presents itself. Such is the case regarding the guest performance that the Vancouver-based company Kidd Pivot presented with its production of „Revisor“ at Theater Heerlen. Author Jonathan Young and Crystal Pite, who also works as a choreographer at the Nederlands Dans Theater, had already been invited to the schrit_tmacher festival in the Euregio in 2020 with this work.
Nicolai Gogol wrote his comedy „The Revisor“ in 1835, yet as it so accurately describes the core relationship that exists in Russia between the people and the state, it bears bitter reality particularly today. Gogol speaks of a small provincial town where corruption and patronage have dominated ever since. The people are happy as long as the state, from which they expect nothing good, leaves them alone. Now rumor has it that an revisor is staying in the town incognito. Immediately the young man who had arrived the day before as a traveler is being suspected. He is being flattered and given money, and the mayor’s daughter immediately falls in love with him. In fact, however, he is a young assesor who has not yet made it very far and is on his way back to his family in St. Petersburg. In the end, he pockets the money and disappears, while the town’s society finds out about the deception and is now exposed to the real revisor.
Gogol’s comedy is currently finding its gruesome actuality in the army’s recruitment campaigns. The hand of the central government is reaching for the lives of the little people. What this meant for the people in Russia even back then is demonstrated by Crystal Pite’s production right from the first scene. With the rumor, terror is immediately there. It literally drives into the limbs of the people. In order to achieve this, Pite chooses a peculiar way of moving. The dancers pause in slowness and then move forward at lightning speed. Like a film that is stopped and fast-forwarded, the result is an extremely uneven rhythm of movement. This is shocking in itself as you can never guess beforehand what will happen next. Moreover, the rapid bodily reactions freeze again in expressive gestures. The mouth remains open, the eyes widened. This is how they look at us, startled. An incredible drama emerges, the energy of which is maintained until the last image.
While the comedy remains ever present, a dense atmosphere of fear and menace dominates the scene. With few props, brilliant lighting and stylishly chosen costumes, a historical ambience is created that sets the stage for fascinating images. An aesthetic proximity to the productions of the Belgian company Peeping Tom cannot be overseen.
With her light dramaturgy, Crystal Pite tells not only the story but also the inner movements of the characters. Here, the text by Jonathan Young and the offstage voices pick up on the protagonists‘ mental distortions. The expressive dance sequences give an insight into the emotions as the real mechanism of human motives. The fact that the young assesor is mistaken for a state official comes from the projection of the honorees, who are basically thugs. Gogol characterizes the collective unconscious of a society, and Kidd Pivot’s ensemble allows this movement to clot in the picture. For moments the performance is suspended and the relationships of the characters can be studied like a map of the soul.
The fact that Crystal Pite and Jonathan Young create an eye for the psychological mechanics of this piece, which continually oscillates between theater and dance, also proves to be a work of genius, because Gogol teaches us a lesson in terms of identity. Identity is in substantial parts an attribution from the outside. Expectation determines the definition of the other. Towards the end, Crystal Pite portrays the supposed revisor as a limp body shell. But also the staff of the small town acts like an ensemble of puppets, whose joints are put into function by an invisible power. This one and a half hour masterpiece of dance art is enlivened by a timing that is simply breathtaking. Every gesture, every turn, every blink of an eye is spot on. A dance machine that almost lavishly offers its audience insight and pleasure.