The Rite of Spring
The Observer, Sunday 22 November 2009
Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Rite of Spring, set in rural Ireland, has divided audiences and critics. As an admirer of his work I wanted to like it, and initially was sure that I was going to. I loved the falling snow, the cups of tea, the tweed-capped ancients with their cardboard boxes. But when the Hag (Olwen Fouéré) started blowing cigarette smoke in people’s faces like an Amazonian shaman, causing the men to revert to mindless atavism, raping women and stomping a hapless outsider to death, I began to wonder. Soon the men, who by now are looking like fairly crude bog-trotter stereotypes, are unbelting their trousers and gang-banging the earth. Later, they put on dog masks, and are presented by the Chosen One (Daphne Strothmann) with a twisted umbilicus of fabric. This turns out to be a string of women’s summer dresses, so they strip naked and drag them on. A lot of music is dissipated in all this activity, and the sight of 18 heavily bearded men laboriously climbing out of their underpants is not life-affirming. The choreography which stitches the action together is thin stuff, and seriously short-changes Stravinsky’s score. This is especially evident in the final Danse sacrale, which sees Strothmann capering ineffectually in bra and pants with the frocked men. But by then Keegan-Dolan has long since shot his bolt.
Luke Jennings, The Observer