Love, time and sharing space ****

from: Het Parool 20/11/2014

So, there they stand: Jonas, Siska, Stephanie, Laetitia, Bastien and Allen. Their ages range from 18 to 22, and their performances are out of this world. After studying acting, music and dance, for the last three years they have been working at Fabuleus production house in Leuven, Belgium.

‘We’re testing out the possibilities of theatre here. This is the world and you’re the reason.’ The six cast members each have a microphone, and they speak to us rhythmically, in unison. We are more than welcome. ‘We’re not pretending you’re not here. You’re not air to us. Our lives depend on you because you’re here.’ These are the words of Peter Handke, and he wrote them when he was 23 – just a year older than the oldest performer in the group.

Beutler and Van den Berg describe their creation as a shadow version of Handke’s Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience). It is a declaration of love because all the cutbacks in the sector have made them even more aware of how much they love theatre, and therefore the audience. And these young people feel the same. They are completely at home standing there in their stage set, a sundrenched grassy meadow in springtime. We believe them when they say that they admire us for deserting our televisions and computers to come and see them.

And we admire them, too: they do everything with a twinkle in the eye, with great verve, and with absolute conviction. Their lines ring clear and true, and the dances are tight and well-articulated. ‘Thank you for walking into the woods with us.’ Then one of them stands before an audience member to proclaim her love. ‘I knew you’d come. There’s something I need to tell you: I want to share my life with you.’ A male colleague kneels on the floor and treats someone else to a melodious and heartfelt serenade. Try as you might, it’s impossible to remain unmoved. However, when they ask us whether we feel that we are now truly present (‘with all the parts of you’) and declare that without us they’d be talking to a wall (‘you make it complete’), we descend into sham healing session territory. But right away the mood takes a more serious turn with a new subject: verbal aggression. It’s something we’ve become accustomed to, learned to deflect. We laugh at things that used to make us cry. So we can take it on the chin when they call us left-wing hobbyists, movement freaks or theatre lovers. ‘No, we don’t want to offend you. When we mock you, we are mocking ourselves.’

The cast prefer to each take an audience member onto the dance floor to perform a solo for him or her. ‘We’re now sharing time and space. We are a clump.’ This makes it difficult to leave the stage, because the moment we’re apart it will be over. But all six players still manage to get behind the curtain and then return for the heartfelt applause.

© Jacq. Algra