Robert Wilson & Lou Reed, POEtry

Review in Issue 13-1 | Spring 2001

Two years after Time Rocker, director Robert Wilson and song writer Lou Reed have taken on another collaborative project: POEtry, based on the stories and the life of writer Edgar Allan Poe, is another attempt at blending Wilson's notorious formalist aesthetic with Reed's dexterous song writing.

The show is structured as a rapid succession of different independent scenes whose visual and aural quality are both extraordinary and disappointing: an actress wearing a long dress, walking slowly at the back of the stage, sings Perfect Day unaccompanied by instruments; a teacher pokes the student who cries, then laughs, as the set changes to a forest; a set flooded by beautiful lighting effects is taken over by an actor singing, in a musical style: 'These are the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, not exactly the guy next door!'

The contrast between the two styles – hallucinatory and aimed at an intellectual audience in the case of Wilson, readily enjoyable and grabbing in the case of Reed – might have provided an interesting artistic challenge, as Wilson's past productions have proved. Unfortunately the contrasting aesthetics, in this case, remain unresolved: the mood of the piece is never decided, always shifting between formalist and commercial, thus generating a sense of confusion as to what the aim of the collaboration really was.

Finally, although beautiful and spectacular because of its scale and visual genius, the show's visual sequences seem to draw heavily upon an established repertoire of images of Wilson's old work – the ‘motifs' have started to look like overused products. And so as Wilson begins this self-parody, one wonders how the intention of his work has been lost.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Dec 2000

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-1
p. 27