It’s dark and something’s buzzing. Lights up, except they’re literally down, a big bar of them rests on a mass of old clothing… so much to choose from but who needs any of it? Nice to play dress up, at least, the idea has occurred to a small team of scavengers who wade through it all, selecting, donning and discarding, shifting it around, stripping down to their pants and diving into piles of it.
And speaking of sport, which I wasn’t, the dance-theatre piece Tauberbach, a collaboration between the actress Elsie de Brauw and the choreographer Alain Platel, Munich’s Kammerspiele theatre and the Belgian dance troupe les ballets C de la B, was presented at Barcelona’s Grec Festival as an alternative to watching the WC semi finals – that game where the Brazilians got picked apart by the Dutch. A coincidence that Tauberbach is based on the Brazilian true story of Estamira, a schizophrenic who lives on a Rio rubbish dump? Pure chance that actress Elsie de Brauw happens to be Dutch?
There is a voice. A male computerised deep silly voice that represents that in Estamira’s head. He loves her – but she’s not worth it. “Princessss,” it whispers creepily, “baby dolllll”. Estamira responds into a microphone, one of four that hang over the stage ripe for collisions, “I was born like this, I was conceived like this, I will not change!” she shouts, as she’s dragged back, disrobed and dumped in a wheelbarrow.
And what …
And what of that group of tormenters, her companions who cavort in the rubbish? Are they happy? They balance or swing on the stage lights as they’re winched way up high, chimp-like they dangle before dropping off into the softness (you hope) beneath. One man whimpers, “I don’t want to be here,” but then watches as two others perform a graphic sex dance – all gaping mouths and tongues and pulling at underwear, visceral but curious rather than embarrassing, like a pair of mating grasshoppers. “Ok, I’ll stay”, the doubter decides.
Then everyone dances about again in their own weirdy ways sometimes alone and sometimes together. And I think, the really nice thing about Alain Platel is that there is none of that typical dystopian vision stuff, where so much ‘life is absurdity’ has ceased to subvert at all, and merely reinforces its own easy rules of rulelessness.
No meaning in life is evaded here, those lost and found individuals interact mischievously but sweetly with each other and with us, so there is always enough to want to leave and enough to want to stay. “I’m happy!” announces the bendy one, he who bears his bottom at any opportunity. Another takes delight in making us wince by clicking her joints close to the microphone. Then the buzzing is back, and in a fabulous 15 minute sketch, that same man who once doubted his own presence is pressed to deliver an auctioneers rant, which is then replayed backwards and forwards, fast motion and slow while he is compelled to dance to it. Falling to the stage gloopily, arms flailing, face gurning, he suddenly springs up and scampers across it, only to be bounced back again by that invisible elastic. The audience cheers at the end of his stint, for who hasn’t had days like that for Christ’s sake?
Thank you to Chris Van der Burght for the photos. Click here for an interview with Alain Platel about Tauberbach. Click here for Judith Mackrell’s review of it in The Guardian.
Tauberbach was on in Barcelona but now it isn’t. It is on European tour, check the dates here. If it’s not on in your city, see anything by les ballets C de la B in the future. Another piece by the troupe is currently touring the US.