New Post and Courier overview critic Joshua Rosenblum today muses over Geisha and Tristan & Yseult. While he lavishes praise upon T&Y, he does reserve one big criticism: the production’s use of Wagner’s climactic “Liebestod” for its own heartrending end:
“Ultimately, of course, the story is a tragedy, and in the heartrending final moments, we once again hear Wagner,” Rosenblum writes. “This, alas, is a near-fatal mistake. Until now, this brilliant, original retelling of the Tristan legend has been an emphatic rejection of Wagner. Kneehigh has acknowledged the great composer, but only to mock him.
“They played the famous Tristan “Prelude” but made funny poses while it played. At another point, Wagner’s musical phrases were played on top of one another as a big jumble. How can they now, without irony, appropriate the famous “Liebestod,” or “love-death” music, for their emotional climax? I could not engage with the drama of this moment because I couldn’t believe they meant it.”
On the subject of Tristan & Yseult, when I saw the production on Saturday, the actor playing Tristan – whose name, it turns out, is Tristan Sturrock – took off his shirt early in the play, when Yseult bandages a wound he sustained in a knife fight, and unless I’m mistaken, Sturrock had one hell of a sunburn. With all the strenuous physical acting he has to do in the play, the man must have been in agony. And all along I thought that was just an actor’s intensity in his eyes...