The Resurrectionists, Vesalius - a Requiem

Review in Issue 8-3 | Autumn 1996

This show was made up of two pieces. Wrest and Redolence was a site-specific installation in the Herb Garret and intended as a comment on the venue. However, I found it said little about the site with too little depth and time to give weight to the act of observing. Vesalius – A Requiem was performed in the amazing and evocative Old Operating Theatre of St. Thomas’ Hospital – a theatre (i.e. a viewing place) in all senses. For inherent dramatic atmosphere the Tower, Garret and Theatre are matched only by the Old Chapel at Lincoln Jail.

The piece was a ‘requiem’ formed round an autopsy of Vesalius’ body, which became a metaphor for his life and work. As a requiem it was made up of many layers/elements but these never really came into a creative, dialectical relationship. Instead they remained unfocused with an uneven narrative and text. Some parts of the text – sections from Vesalius’ journal, the shifts in character and place, and the sung parts of the narrative – were strong, evocative, ritualistic and imagistic. But these were undermined by a rather bland script, some weak acting/physical vocabulary and an unimaginative staging unable to match or draw on the power of the space. The mock autopsy simply produced laughter, a representational realism in staging detracting from the poetic, elegiac tone and elements.

Despite its claims, this was not site-specific. It could have gone into any studio, nor did it achieve the power of a requiem. Sadly, a piece of unrealised and missed potential.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 1996

This article in the magazine

Issue 8-3
p. 22