Edinburgh International Festival 2015
En avant, marche! Is a performance integrating acting, text, music and dance – it’s also an homage to brass marching bands and a metaphor for life.
En avant, marche! Is a performance integrating acting, text, music and dance – it’s also an homage to brass marching bands and a metaphor for life. The creative team comprises directors Frank Van Laecke and Alain Platel and musical director and composer Steven Prengels. They manage to create a big show with a cast of professional actors, musicians and dancers – plus a local marching band of about forty musicians. Onstage at the beginning of the play is Wim Opbrouck who arranges some seats and sits down ready to rehearse with his cymbals. At first he looks like a portly band master, but as others arrive organizing the many chairs strewn about the stage, he is obviously a musician, and an unhappy one at that. Music is the centre of this universe and all the situations – whether comic, poignant or serious evolve from the band and its members. Opbrouck dominates the scenes, it’s largely his story, and he is utterly believable. His character has not been well, and worse, it has curtailed his ability to play his beloved trombone.
Laecke and Platel developed this work by getting together the cast and planning the music possibilities with Prengels. They work by experimentation and fully expect the line between actor/dancer/musician to be merged and blended as much as is possible. This is apparent because when each person in the cast of eleven is on stage in combinations of pairs, small and a large group, there is a wonderful sense that we are not watching a theatre or a musical performance – but a performance that blurs the lines so much that we are not sure what is happening, but the emerging narrative is fascinating.
There is an element of romance and whimsy in this piece, which sweeps you along and it turns out there’s a lot of heart and a very human subtext that envelops you when you least expect it. The arrival of the rest of the band –the forty plus Dalkeith and Monktonhall Brass Band is fabulous and they become integral to the storytelling.
Opbrouck speaks little but when he does the text is multilingual – some of which is supertitled. He is a bear of a man that goes through an emotional arc as his passion for music and self evaluate what his future brings. Two women in gold sequin dresses play lively sparkly majorettes and are important characters in the story, beautifully played by Griet Debacker and Chris Thys. Hendrik Lebon, an actor and dancer features prominently with Opbrouck’s character in energetic solos. It’s also interesting to see the entire cast’s spontaneity as they act, dance or make music.
En avant, marche! Is the kind of show that creeps up on you and is so much more – it’s a moving performance piece and should be experienced!
Originally published in www.ForAllEvents.com