Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Arts Festival Review: The Holy Sinner

The Holy Sinner

Reviewed by Lyndon Hood

The Holy Sinner
10 - 13 March
St James
2 hours 30 minutes

The Holy Sinner is spectacular. It is theatre produced on a scale at or beyond that usually associated with opera or musicals. Inside Out's Marie Adams and Mike Mizrahi have spent the last decade making large-scale public and corporate performance and the show is full of that spirit. Full-stage video projection, pyrotechnics, 3D sound, light shows, grand movements of people through space (the large ensemble cast is kept very busy) and huge, mobile pieces of set all contibute to produce images on a truly epic scale.

Some of these images help move on the action - as in a beautifully realised, if hollywood-style, medieval war scene. Others amplify the emotional situation, as in the movement sequence where the newborn twins weave around and cling to each other as they will through life. But many seem to do little except take up more time.

The biggest problem with The Holy Sinner was that everything took too long.

Whether due to the sheer logistics of shifting and re-costuming actors, or over-indulgence, or simply to cueing problems, it seemed as if each grand new visual idea outstayed its welcome. These might have been dramatic in themselves set up in a warehouse or outdoors with all the technical bones showing - here, behind the poscenium arch of the Opera House, we saw it, took it in, and then started waiting for the action to resume.

Even the most appropriate and imaginative stage images - such as a physically spinning room at the highest moment of emotional turmoil - went on too long.

The actual plot could be summarised in a few paragraphs - and the first half was what might normally be considered the prologue (the opening sequences were in fact the most boring, which left the production with a lot of sympathy to rebuild). Even if we add in all the different pieces of spectacle, not a lot happened.

In this context, it becomes difficult to enjoy the production as a whole, to connect up the characters and the emotions, or even get a clear sense of what the point of the whole thing is. Any gains made, as from a particularly stong image or the engagingly earthy appearances of Madeleine Sami as a maid/narrator, are quickly lost.

Another issue is to do with repitition. Sometimes images are reincorporated in a way that works - the powerful abstraction of the weight of sin as a huge physical ball and chain bearing down on the two incestuous sinners is powerful the first time and is invoked again when the situation recurs. On the other hand, the sequences depicting the sinning in question are almost identical, down to the music, the special effects and if not the characters then the actors. Having seen it once, we do not get much more out of seeing it again.

The soundtrack - tending to intense, driving electronic compositions - reflected these problems in that it was ulitmately based in repetition. A few more actual tunes may have done a lot for the whole production.

The Holy Sinner is based on Thomas Mann's novel, which retells a 12th-century story of sin and redemption. Mann's book is regarded as having layers reflecting on things such as modern Europe - this production seems most interested in the tale. Using the old epic as a frame for spectacle after spectacle, it shows a few signs of an exuberant approach to storytelling where one will happily throw anything into the mix, however incongruous, if it enhances the story or the audience's enjoyment. It would be in that context that, if we felt the final spectacle to be lacking (it wasn't), the desicion to "bring on the marching girls" - literally - might have made sense.

But because the dramatic and structural sides of the show do not seem to have come together - the production might have benefitted from a opening run in the provinces that NZ isn't really set up to provide - the whole thing was visually impressive without really being entertaining.


NZ Arts Festival: The Holy Sinner
Scoop Audio Interview: The Holy Sinner co-director Mike Mizrahi
Scoop Full Coverage: Festival 06

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news