Electric Japan 2022: Tristan and Isolde at the Coronet Theatre
Critically acclaimed Japanese choreographer Subaro Teshigawara returns to the Coronet with his UK premiere interpretation of Tristan and Isolde. A long-told story based on Celtic legend, the production uses Wagner’s opera as its foundation, exploring the deeply moving story of the fabled couple, always on the precipice of love and death.
The space is enveloped in light and dark from the start, ethereal and beguiling, as Teshigawara takes to the stage with his dance partner and artistic assistant Rihoko Sato. The story, for those unfamiliar with it, tells of a Cornish knight and Irish princess who are not meant for each other, but inevitably fall in love by imbibing a potion.
Teshigawara condenses Wagner’s four-hour opera to its essence, and here the choreographer and Sato formulate a sequence that strips the piece to its core tragedy, only utilising excerpts from the German composer’s piece. There is an abundance of swaying arms, mirroring the undulating feelings of the yearning pair. Teshigawara occupies the stage sides, while Sato has more exuberant steps, creating variety. There is no denying the choreographer’s talent in his field, describing dance as an “extension of my body”, but the result could do with a little more range.
However, one part that stands out is the cross formation on the floor, upon which we see Tristan and Isolde gracefully vying for one another, yet never touching, even while inches apart. Furthermore, there is the scene when Tristan walks slowly for several minutes, removes his coat, and places it gently on the floor, perhaps revealing his demise. Isolde caresses it tenderly, her lover no longer present, the coat more than a piece of material.
The lighting acts as an additional character, corresponding to the lovers’ emotions, while simple set design, including dark curtains, is every so often lit in stark relief. There is a little repetition in the choreography, but Wagner fans and dance enthusiasts will appreciate both Teshigawara and Sato’s rendering. The choreographer compares the 60-minute structured improvisation to jazz. Like any intense art piece, Tristan and Isolde also requires time to process.
Tristan and Isolde is at the Coronet Theatre from 2nd June until 10th June 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.