FRINGE PREVIEW – Turandot (Universal Arts)

We have five pairs of tickets to give away to any one of Turandot‘s preview performances at the New Town Theatre from 4-8 Aug at 15:00. To win a pair, simply email competitions@edinburghspotlight.com with a subject of ‘Turandot ticket offer’, your name and the date you would like to attend.


As we file into a rundown industrial building on the outskirts of the Polish university town of Lublin, there’s a sense of anticipation: a slight wariness of entering the unknown, passing from the sunlight into some secret, grindcore underground.

Turandot by netTheatre

Turandot by netTheatre

The feeling’s appropriate, as we’re here to see Turandot, a new production from netTheatre and its visionary director / auteur, Pawel Passini. Computerised operatic loops pulse around the converted space as a life-size puppet of Puccini hangs from the ceiling in front of the stage. A man sits with his naked back to the audience before the lights dim and Passini’s multimedia tour-de-force boots up into action.

During the production, Passini provides offstage narration, whilst also creating and remixing the live soundtrack and video which complements – and at times dominates – the live performances of the actors.

The production focuses on the final years of Puccini’s life, weaving the dying composer’s own story into that of his unfinished masterpiece Turandot. Puccini himself is a man wracked by torment and disease; characters from his opera and his personal life blur into one; his muse personified as a debauched and languid male performer who torments and teases the composer during his final days.

Turandot

Turandot

Passini’s live remixing – audio and video – helps to establish this otherworld; his narrative taking the opera’s plot device of three riddles and twisting them into the tortured composer’s mind as his wife and alleged mistress appear like demonic visions around him. Inventive puppetry completes the strange world which Passini creates: tiny dancing chorus-like figures; and a striking doppelganger of Puccini himself, a symbol of his imminent death.

Using the fact the opera was the first to be performed in Beijing’s Forbidden City as a springboard, Passini also makes strong and at times unsettling comment on 21st century China. Through video juxtaposition and one astonishingly brutal sequence of metaphorical torture, he makes what are at times uncomfortable observations about power and corruption as he sees it.

Yet Turandot is no censor-baiting shock production. For every brutal or nightmarish sequence, there is a tender or comedic counterpart; and the sum of these powerful parts adds up to a memorable and thought-provoking whole, one which encourages much debate as we re-emerge from the blackness into the fading sun of the Lublin evening.

Turandot by netTheatre runs at Universal Arts’ New Town Theatre from 4-27 Aug (not 17) at 15:00. More details are on the Universal Arts website.

We have five pairs of tickets to give away to any one of Turandot‘s preview performances at the New Town Theatre from 4-8 Aug at 15:00. To win a pair, simply email competitions@edinburghspotlight.com with a subject of ‘Turandot ticket offer’, your name and the date you would like to attend.

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