The Manganiyar Seduction
Friday, January 15th, 2010
Hi guys, This is Jenni here and as Simon just mentioned, I will be doing the "guest appearances" for the Sydney Festival which means that if you begin to be irritated by my posts, in much the same way as a TV guest spot would work, I will suddenly disappear in mysterious circumstances only to return years later with a new face and a completely different writing style which you will much prefer, possibly even becoming a permanent character. I enjoy writing overly long sentences with too many commas and have been known to create the largest paragraphs known to man- so I apologise in advance. In spite of this and to continue Simon's tradition, my first review is of a show that has closed. I am hopeful though that the company will return at some point in which case I would encourage everyone to go see them.
The Manganiyar Seduction is a musical experience. A fully sold out show erupts to a standing ovation after 70 minutes of traditional Indian music that has steadily built from a sole musician to almost 40 musicians. Roysten Abel, the creator of the piece, has smartly placed each musician in a box, as you can see from the picture, which illuminates when the artist is playing. Until their debut a velvet red curtain covers the musicians. This creates suspense and the impetus to watch as we know that all will reveal themselves but not when or what kind of instrument they will be playing.
While aurally stunning, the light show that accompanies the well placed musicians makes it visually stunning as well. This piece could easily have been like so many things we see all the time. It could have been a traditional orchestral setup with chairs or build in a predictable way and as we expect this to happen our expectations are exceeded. The craft involved is clear when all the boxes have eventually been revealed and still we watch with anticipation as it continues to build and be interesting although seemingly they have shown all at their disposal. It is a song of devotion and love, evident in the passionate delivery from all involved which is infectious with many in the audience clapping and moving to the rhythms.
The unique nature of the piece makes it powerful. Even if you were familiar with the music, the presentation is so innovative that this would be a new experience while its theatrical construction makes it accessible for even those unfamiliar. Abel, who speaks after the pieve, believes in the transcendental nature of the music, specifically referencing conflicts such as that currently occurring in Austrlaia with Indian students. I think that more immediately the impact lies in bringing to Australian audiences something that so openly celebrates and shares in a very culturally specific way a universal message. A dialogue is constructed between the performers in the shared space of the performance. Whether or not this transfers across to real spaces, it makes an impact for the duration and is a visceral experience that is completely moving and enlivening.