Review: Tao of Glass at MIF 2019

Tao of Glass is quite simply a masterclass of performance and last-night I was fortunate enough to witness it.

By Lee Isherwood | 16 July 2019

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Part-concert, part-theatre, Tao of Glass is a storytelling tapestry in which Phelim McDermott delivers a tale of stories, memories and opportunities that weave together and fix with rivers of gold as they dance in paper in the round to the majestic sound of 10 unique Phillip Glass compositions.

Philem’s narrative begins with local context and his childhood in Greater Manchester, his early teens sat in the Royal Exchange and back past, to creation of the RX Theatre itself, this rose bud over 3 layers that sits majestic in it’s surrounding building, but where did that come from, that idea, the thought, the imagination and the vision in that moment.

This poses the question and focus of the entire piece – Where does true inspiration come from?

To find out, it seems, you need a good long session in a floatation chamber just you and your thoughts weightless and careless closing down your own voice, falling into what I now know as – the essence.

Inspired by a dream, Phelim marries ten meditations on life, death and Taoist wisdom, taking us to Kintsugi – the ancient art of fixing broken objects with beautiful seams of precious metals – on to Connecticut and the home of Maurice Sendak to discuss a theatrical version of In The Night Kitchen a piece they hoped to make together. On through more chance meetings, ideas, places and spaces only to end up here.

A character emerges from no-where and dances a top a piano, where once there was only a piece of paper, now there is life.

Phenomenal puppetry from Improbable brings paper to life as characters through the story, their movement and expertise capturing the slightest of animations, a scratch of the hip when thinking, the lowering of a hand, the retraction of a character forced back.

The piece beautifully navigates from an opportunity that sadly passed, through to a lifelong dream come true. A teenage Phelim lies on his bedroom floor listening to Glassworks Phelim’s storytelling brought a poignancy to that record for myself and the audience. It was like we were there with him sharing the moment, the feeling.

Tickets will sell out fast for this one folks so don’t miss out.


Tao of Glass
Manchester International Festival 2019

Venue: Royal Exchange Theatre
Dates: Thursday 11th – Saturday 20th July
Cost: From £38

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