Meryl Tankard’s The Oracle – A terpsichorean success (or a sermon in the fine arts)

Paul White in The Oracle. Photography by Régis Lansac
Paul White in The Oracle. Photography by Régis Lansac.

The Oracle marks Meryl Tankard’s triumphant return to Adelaide after a 16-year absence. Performed by Paul White to Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring, The Oracle really is high-end High art.

The Oracle has been in production since 2009, receiving rave reviews in Australia (where it was initially performed), Europe and North America.

On entering The Dunstan Playhouse audience members are immediately hit by a strong, sweet smell of burning incense – in anticipation of being taken back to a holy temple for an ancient ritual or a primordial time when men and women were more intensely engaged with the natural environment. Either way, that’s what The Oracle is; a homage to the Homo sapian in nature while exploring the human relationship with nature through those often competing demands.

[pull_left]when White dances naked everything combines to reach a new level of artistic brilliance that is simply divine[/pull_left]

To a cacophony of insects dancer Paul White eventually appears on stage (in over-sized underwear and a cloak that transforms into a variety of props from a turban to a skirt) and begins his nearly hour-long transversal of the stage in feminine and masculine guise during a series of graceful vignettes. White engages with himself and his own dancing via Régis Lansac’s visuals on the backdrop but it’s when White dances naked that everything – the beauty of his performance, Ben Hughes’ lighting, Tankard’s choreography and Stravinsky’s music combines to reach a new level of artistic brilliance that is simply divine.

Interestingly, off stage White seems small and unassuming but on stage his body and his dramatic presence is very big indeed. White showed astounding strength, fluidity of movement and an ability to transform identity during this sometimes playful and sometimes elegant terpsichorean romp with nature.

Quite famously the original 1913 orchestral/ballet performance of The Rite of Spring was met with riots upon its release – The Oracle won’t cause a riot but at its conclusion the production was met with a standing ovation and deservedly so.

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