At the Stadschouwberg in October of 2013
Although the performance, “Theater as it was to be expected and to be foreseen”, had premiered in 1982, it still struck me as innovative and stunning 31 years after. I was personally drawn to see this work because one of my teachers opened up my appetite and desire to experience a very lengthy piece, such as this one, which was 8-hours long. Though timing was fundamental to the piece, I would rather skip commenting about that and focus my writing on another aspect: the “realness” of the performance.
Throughout the performance, there were several scenes that I found especially interesting because of how “real” they appeared to be. Nothing seemed artificial. The performers were being themselves and allowed each situation to affect them in a personal way.
During one scene we could see: A man and a woman, both dressed in suits, with matching dark coats and trousers and a white t-shirt underneath. They were challenging each other to see who was the fastest at getting undressed. They took their full attire off-and-on, off-and-on, off-and-on, repeatedly, for more than one hour. Since they went on for so long, their exhaustion could no longer be hidden, and their anger or frustration while trying to beat each other also slipped onto the stage. You never knew who was going to win that time and their honest feelings were fun to see.
In another moment, a girl walked on with a parakeet tied on a string. Before you knew it, all of the performers were on stage, blindfolded, each with a parakeet on a leash. They all walked slowly towards one woman, who tied the ends of their strings together. This way, all the parakeets were connected to each other making a nice star-like shape with their leashes. The scene was very irritating, even hard to look at because you weren’t sure if the birds were okay. It was clear, however, that the poor animals were not happy. One kept trying to fly away, but since he was attached to his buddies, the string around his neck would quickly though him back to the center. He tried flying away several times and eventually started to chirp and squeal as his body was tossed and rolled on the floor due to the pulling of the string. The dancers exited the space and all that was left was the saddening image of colorful birds suffering. It ended when a lady, blind-folded, came on and searched for the birds, almost stepping on one, to catch them under a jacket and take them away. In this case, the “realness” of the act is what intensified my feelings and made me hesitate and ponder over the situation.After all, seeing a realistic performance can be exciting and fun, scary or dangerous, but the beauty of it all lies on how the realness affects us as an audience. From one side, our empathy allows us to feel the same as someone who is truly going through happiness or rage. And from another point; performing in this way, being present with the moment and allowing the situation to play out in a slightly different way each day gives us, the spectators, a sense of unpredictability and curiosity that I adore.
Find out more about Jan Fabre here: http://janfabre.be/