Tapestry’s new experimental show opened last night at the Ernest Balmer Studio. It’s a “mash up” of Persian classical music and hip hop around the theme of The Child and The Stranger, who turns out to be Lucifer. Lucifer seeks to show the child that authority and rules serve only to allow the powerful to abuse and punish others. This is explicated in six short scenes using the various musical resources and styles available.
It’s a heady mix. Composer Afarin Mansouri and librettist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard use a combination of traditional Persian instruments (tar, ney and percussion) and the different vocal options available to create a musical and dramatic kaleidoscope which is intriguing, musically satisfying and dramatically engaging.
There are three classically trained singers who all play multiple roles. Alexander Hajek makes full use of his powerful baritone as Lucifer among others. Shirin Eskandari sings a variety of female characters in a velvety mezzo. Then there’s Neema Bickersteth as the Child. Neema is blessed with a soprano voice that can cover many styles and one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen. She is deeply affecting. Then there’s the gender fluid Iranian hip hop artist Säye Skye who raps out Farsi and English lyrics and provides a Puck like commentary. It all works together remarkably well.
Padideh Ahrarnejad on tar, Kianoush Khalilan on ney and Ali Massoudi on percussion do a fine job of realising Mansouri’s sound world which is both familiar and exotic at the same time. Michael Mori’s direction makes good use of the small space of the Ernest Balmer where everything feels intimate but never more so than in this show.
Tap:Ex shows are always an experiment and a risk. This one succeeds on many levels and, I think, is the most successful of the ones I have attended. Catch it if you can.
Tap:Ex Forbidden plays at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District. Tonight and Sunday are sold out but there are still tickets available for Saturday at 4pm and 8pm.
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz