FringeReview Scotland 2012
Belgian Theatre Company brings a diptych about perception that dances its way round your ideals and drops right into your heart with strings of delight. Three dancers in two pieces that speak to each other, reflect their own creativity and directly delights those of us fortunate enough to come in and share.
I See You begins with an elderly man sitting at a chair drawing. Once we begin we see a middle aged dancer behind a gauze over to our right. Then enters a young girl of around 8/9 years of age. The movement of the middle aged lady, we may presume is a maternal figure, is mirrored by the child. What follows is a physical exploration of these three representations of our generations and the trust they have in each other as they watch, copy and absorb the movement of each other into a dance that ends when the young takes the old by the hand offstage. Following on we have a teenage girl who brings a doll of the old man onstage and starts to play with it on a table, which has been left behind. She is joined by a man in his pants and an old lady watching from above. From a wondrous game of follow my leader the stage is opened up cleverly whilst the man in his pants, dresses, gets sent up and then disrobes. All the while the humour shines through and we are engaged in the rich subtext of an observation rather than an answer.
I just adored these two pieces and it was testimony to the time in which we live that, as I am reading increasingly lurid tales of misbehaving celebrities and sex with minors that this returned my head to the innocence of growing up and playing with your parents/grandparents. Nini Dormael was as adorable as a button but competent in her movement that the work with both dancers – Joke Laureyns and Philippe Flachet – was never anything less than sublime. Where there were inconsistencies of movement or either one of them was behind or less than polished it added to the poignancy and the truthfulness of the piece.
In the second piece the comic nature of Kwint Manshoven’s character as the man in his pants was wondrous. Both Kristina Neirynck and Elisa Palm supported Kwint beautifully. Acting as the interested and disdainful they guided us through his manic nature with great skill.
What was most impressive was how these two pieces unfolded. In the first we saw how a daughter may mimic her mother, how a grandfather may help both and how all inter depend each on the other. Particularly impressive was seeing that child stand on a book that was on a box and then stand on a radiator without a harness, sit in a tilting chair, climb up onto a table and walk all over it without the aid of a safety net. The scene where Nini badgered Philippe into helping her get to the hanging crystal was a high point. From annoying little girl that gets lifted onto his shoulders she rewarded him with a bit of her biscuit. It just melted you. And yet there was some genuine substance to the way in which any society deals with generational gaps. When Nini played the game with Joke that was pat-a cake style towards the end this was repeated much more awkwardly between a teenager and someone old enough to be your Gran in the second piece and it resonated.
In the second piece both Kristina and Elisa act as partners and commentators to Kwint’s magnetic anarchist. The coordination over the follow my leader where they stopped when watched – very Dr Who and the Angels…- was well observed and superbly delivered. The puppetry was so engaging and the use of the mobile Kwint followed later by the inflatable one was hilarious. There were moments that were just so funny and inventive. The package that unfolded to be the box that had been brought on in miniature form at the beginning of the second piece was one such piece of pure inventiveness. The ending of one section where one stood with a frown, he had a wig on and she wore mickey mouse ears; you had to be there…
That may indeed be the point. Dance is, in my opinion, at its most effective when it creates a language that is both self reverential and explainable within the context of its own performance. This was a performance that had a point. Dance was the point; the performance was the point; the exploration through art was the point. Now as I read over my notes from the performance I see that we had a wee girl in dangerous situations and a young man dancing in his pants in front of a teenage girl… I am neither prudish nor am I insensitive to society’s ills. Neither is Belgian theatre – I have seen Aalst – so we have something that ought to have rang bells like never before and all it did was intrigue, engage and instruct.
The audience were certainly all three though one young chap behind me felt rather confused. It was visually engaging but what was it about? His compatriots with him were haranguing him from the row in which they sat to well outside the doors. It was a fairly young audience and I did wonder how many students had come to see it. For many students of the genre this should be compulsory viewing. Just one wee note for the cast – you go on for a second bow when the weans decide you do!!!
I shall not be over in Belgium anytime soon but this is why the Tramway can be such a treasure. It brings other companies to you. I have seen a lot of material at the Tramway that has done just what this did and challenged me. This is right up there with the best that I have seen. I may be unable to get to Gent but will hope that Kabinet K brings a bit of Gent back soon for us all.