"The great staging and play of light – the latter signed by Jedi light master Minna Tiikkainen – draw a lot of power from the fact that we as an audience are sitting on stage, looking at the room closed off by a screen."
Somewhere in the middle of the play, the eight men come together. In between singing the undertones of The cold song—Henry Purcell's song taken apart in 8: Metamorphosis—they speak, sigh and whisper words: “Mentalities, Mannerism, Shaman, German, nymphomaniac, menopause, mango”.
Outside in the world it is now clear: we are pushing ourselves into a new, unknown future with regard to the climate. In the theatre, Nicole Beutler scrutinizes masculinity – also phonetically – in order to accept the necessary changes of our era. The search for a new manhood as an example of the changing power systems around us. It's not just the ice that is melting.
Lying on the floor, the searching men form chains, or they jump flat on the floor as in a swimming performance and then hop across the hall in a push-up position. Gestures of power – muscle here, proud chest there – are deprived of their meaning in the choreography and exposed to other possibilities. Just like the men themselves, by the way: tight, gray suits, ties and shirts are gradually being removed. The symbolism is obvious: with M.C Escher's prints as the ideal source of inspiration, we are witnessing a metamorphosis, stretching across space and time.
The wonderful staging and play of light – the latter signed by Jedi light master Minna Tiikainen – draw a lot of power from the fact that we, the audience, are sitting on stage, looking at the room closed off by a screen. The iron steels to which the theater lights are normally attached are used a few times to emphasize the impressive height above our heads and give us the feeling that we are wandering in the same underground pit as the eight beings with whom we share the space.
While the relatively cold, choreographic exercises are used to portray the transformation of the men á la Escher, music and singing touch a deeper chord. In the scenes where the performers try out The Cold Song, they come to life and become vulnerable. The concentration is visible and gives a human charge to a performance that undoubtedly demands a lot outside everyone's comfort zone. Frank Rosaly is already setting the tone as the audience takes their seats, accompanying us with an improvisation behind his drum kit. Later, in one of the most intense moments of the performance, he jerks the seven dancers/singers through the space with a growing sound chaos, to give us the final push towards…
Metamorphosis as an idea actually fits well with Nicole Beutler's way of doing things. The booklet that is handed out on arrival is evidence of a rich conceptual content, and the result feels like a quest full of curiosity and loose knots, at times even (in a positive way) unfinished. The performance asks the spectator to contribute, to think along, and thanks to the impressive structure of some images, the musical choices and the work of the performers, this is always an invitation and never a requirement. Yet the abundance of elements and ideas ultimately counteracts the dramaturgy of the piece, it does not want to take off and so we keep spinning around in the twilight.
Once the suits are taken off, a light suddenly shines behind the screen. "Finally!" calls the expectation and yes, it happens: the curtain is raised and we are allowed to look into the audience hall, to a sea of fog full of looming velvet-red chairs. A red lamp glows like a setting sun in the depths and just before that a fragile tree completes the fantasy. Mighty.
One by one, just before that, the quasi-naked men disappeared into the shadows. They also come back one by one and then slowly walk into the room, dressed in crazy costumes, past man, animal, plant or machine. An absurdist wink, but unfortunately: the transition to this reveal is so long-winded that it finally looks like the trailer of a new film. The value of what we have all built up in the first hour is not carried over the red armchairs into the room, and as a result the beautiful closing image has slightly less impact.
And while it doesn't diminish the overall value of a brave and grandiose work, it's a shame: I would have loved to have accompanied them to the new beginnings.
24 mei 2019
Uit: El Balandre, door Jordi Ribot Thunnissen