Review: A SONG OF SONGS, Park Theatre

The physicality of the piece takes centre stage.

By: May. 15, 2024
Review: A SONG OF SONGS, Park Theatre
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Review: A SONG OF SONGS, Park Theatre A Song of Songs is both a religious text and an erotic poem, and here Ofra Daniel, who writes, composes, directs, and plays the lead role of Tirzah, has placed it within a traditional Middle Eastern beat, offering "an exotic experience of the senses".

There are twelve people on stage: musicians, dancers, actors. Tirzah is introduced as something of a muse of love, who went mad for a fantasy beyond her marital bed. As she is teased by younger women who both fear and mock her advice, she takes us back to the start of her story.

An arranged marriage to a local fishmonger (Matthew Woodyatt, who also plays the narrator and other roles) falls physically short and when the union remains barren, letters from an unknown admirer pitch Tirzah into a self-exploration which can only be described as excessive, even horny.

With A Song of Songs exploring the deeply lyrical and intense nature of love, whether between man and woman or between a people and an ideal, Daniel's interpretation contains a number of songs and dances that complement the material. The combination of melodies is often glorious, and the lyrics offer traditional perspectives on keeping house and husband, and how the man of the house should protect and nurture those within it.

For Tirzah, this isn't enough, and conjuring up a lover (Joaquin Pedro Valdes) allows her to explore her sensual needs and sexual yearnings. However, as she becomes more brazen in public, and remote in private, her exploration turns to madness. Whether through the stamps and flowing skirts of flamenco or thumping percussive beats, the physicality of the piece takes centre stage.

Review: A SONG OF SONGS, Park Theatre
A Song of Songs. 
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

What may be missing is an emotional connection. The wedding of two nervous people under the traditional canopy offers a glimpse into awkward alliances, but the marriage itself remains undeveloped. There are moments with the ladies of Jerusalem (Laurel Dougall, Rebecca Glacopazzi, Shira Kravitz, Ashleigh Schuman) that offer humour or the bitter cold shoulder of women gossips, but Tirzah is an unsympathetic, self-absorbed character.

Marina Paz has designed set and costumes that offer symbolism (red fans) and escape, a ladder covered in flowers, while the musicians (Daniel Gouly, Amy Price, Ramon Ruiz, Ashley Blasse, Ant Romero) are platformed behind the action. The lighting by Aaron J Dootson fits the heightened mood, whether offering shadow or spotlight.

A Song of Songs teases out the elements of obsession and lust within the original text, but the central love story doesn't quite convince despite Woodyatt's strong work as a husband who doesn't recognise or understand the woman who shares his life, and Valdes's ethereal interpretation of the mysterious scribe.

Daniel gives a towering and exhausting performance as a woman exiled from a world which will not accept her, but the thought is always there that she caused ruin and notoriety to herself, and is no authority on the real mysteries of love.

Read our guest blog with Ofra Daniel here.

A Song of Songs continues at Park Theatre until 15th June 2024.

Photo credit: Pamela Raith


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