Marina Abramovic is alive and well but she still fakes her own death. The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic is an ‘operatic’ biography created by Robert Wilson for Manchester’s International Festival.
The woman on whom it is centred, had always longed to see her own funeral so, in the opening scene, we see three Marinas in coffins surrounded by Doberman dogs accompanied by the dirge of a Serbian singer. The fact that she is still breathing and still performing is owed to fate. For her object has always been to test the resilience of body and mind to the limit in public.
The nearest she came to death was in 1974 when she threw herself into the centre of a large, burning star and lost consciousness.
Life and Death isn’t a one woman show by the “Grandmother of Performance Art”. She plays her mad mother along the lines of Cinderella’s evil stepmother. No wonder Marina is verging on the psychotic. Many other performers play Marina, and Hollywood film actor, Willem Dafoe serves as an inspirational narrator without whose genius the show would fall flat, as he certainly breathes life into the show, whenever he is on stage.
White-faced and wearing a red wig, Dafoe tells her horrific life story, the abusive childhood years taking up the entire 90 minute first half. Another interesting and successful aspect is some of the music - three songs, are written and performed by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons in a tingling, expressive way. Sure, these numbers continue to explore the depressing theme but they are beautifully performed, giving the audience something poignant to remember.
Robert Wilson deserves credit for devising the show, as it's certainly original and at times thought-provoking and Dafoe and Hegarty bring class to the piece but it reminds me of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
The artistically inclined perceive a high calibre show clad in mime, dance, new music and statuesque silhouettes. The plebs, like me, don’t join in the standing ovation. All we can see is a naked attempt at a smoke scrreen.
I am disappointed that we don’t see any of Abromavic’s breathtaking endurance acts. The only test of stamina is my own as I sit through this long and miserable show.