Bones in Pages is a reworking of a 1991 solo work by Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara, first made for a gallery setting. Now mounted for the stage and including two women, Kei Miyata and Rihoko Sato, the piece retains the feel of an art installation. One wall is lined with stacks of books: they face outward, their pages fanned into paper ruffs. Stage right is a dense black carpet of shoes. In the centre, a table and chair – sawn in half and displayed in two perspex cases – are separated by a narrow corridor, like a drawing room styled by Damien Hirst. On one perspex wall perches a live black crow, which stays there throughout, unflappable (mostly).
On one perspex wall perches a live black crow, which stays there throughout, unflappable (mostly)
Teshigawara, in black, is seated at a table, his hands fluttering above the glass shards embedded in its surface. A beam of light throws his bald head into relief. He fixes the crow with a gimlet eye – Nosferatu sighting Poe’s raven – before stepping out and delivering a bizarre but seamless mix of angled zombie limbs and body-popping, executed with the speed and precision of a martial-arts monk. At the back, a woman materialises from the shadows like an apparition; she is rooted to the spot as she reaches and sways, caught in a slanting finger of light as if from a cell window. A second woman, in a grimacing green mask, scampers over the corridor of shoes in a goblin-like danse macabre.
The expressionist lighting is excellent, and the atmospheric score ranges from unearthly, splintering crashes through distant thunder, turbulent romantic strings, ominous gongs and chimes. But though Bones in Pages is strong on mood, it is light on substance, leaning heavily on its audience to make of it what they will.
If you’re a sucker for gothic imagery, it can look like Gormenghast’s library haunted by the ghosts of Poe, classic horror and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But if it doesn’t tickle your soft spots, it can seem overly enigmatic and curiously static.