Basil Twist, Symphonie Fantastique

Review in Issue 13-1 | Spring 2001

Basil Twist’s Symphonie Fantastique went down a storm in his native New York, where it played to sell-out houses for a year and a half before being snapped up for LIMF and transplanted into the ICA theatre.

Black curtains cover all the stage save a central rectangular space which is Twist’s three-dimensional canvas; the water-filled, five hundred gallon, glass-walled tank in which unusual objects such as feathers, mops and ribbons dance to the soundscape of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

It depends on your taste, but the overall result of so much billowing manipulation of colourful floaty things is either stimulating or soporific. The beautiful use of lighting with the animation of weightless fabrics definitely creates a kaleidoscopic effect which is mesmerising. It’s like listening to music with your eyes, says the press blurb – or like watching a Kandinsky canvas come to life.

However, from the front the tank looks like a large TV screen; and its size in relation to the blackness which surrounds it recreates the familiar experience of watching the box. Perhaps it is just this familiarity in a ‘live space’ which prevents the initial novelty of this beautiful work sustaining itself beyond the first half hour.

At the end of the performance there was a magical revelation. The curtains were pulled back to show the machinations of the piece: the huge backstage area, wet animators, a whole other living, breathing world which had been denied us in favour of its clever polished result. Suddenly it was all hugely interesting, but unfortunately all too late.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-1
p. 24