Performers: Kulunka Teatro, Robin Boon Dale & Romain Teule
Reviewer: Daryl Holden
Comprised of three vastly different pieces, the Best Of BE Festival is exactly what it says on the tin. Juggling, the language of the birds and mask work are what make up these hugely impressive and enjoyable shows from the Birmingham European Festival 2017. And what fantastic work it is.
The starting performance comes as a one-man show titled Légende by French performer Romain Teule. In this piece, he gives a performance lecture on how convoluted language can be and how different interpretations can bear different results. Focusing the show on “the language of the birds”, Romain displays the humour contained within language barriers that make up our societies to highlight just how similar things can be when some absurdist thought processes are applied. The language of the birds suddenly doesn’t seem so unimaginable, and the subtextual intentions of the English language are brought under the microscope. Joining language with physicality, Teule uses his long limbs to his advantage, and we witness an inventive way of approaching a subject that would usually only interest the minority, made all the more poignant by the fact that it’s being presented by a performer who has learned English as a second language.
In the second show of the evening, we see Robin Boon Dale prove that there is indeed methodology in the madness. In his show What Does Stuff Do? We are given an interesting lecture on how we as people interact with objects and what makes up those relationships. Further demonstrating this point by juggling, in his swimming shorts. If it sounds absurd then you’d be correct but that doesn’t lessen the true genius behind this show. To say the skills of Boon Dale are impressive would be an understatement. Not only are we impressed, we are also thoroughly entertained. Even when something is dropped, his confidence and ability make sure that we never care enough to let it ruin the performance means we simply let him recover, and pick up where we left off. While delivering his findings and views on relationships between objects and people there are moments of physical comedy. This piece is a fine art and will keep a smile on your face from start to finish, even if you choose not to listen to what is being said, you’ll still find enjoyment here. However, you should be paying attention as the topic intertwined in the performance is incredibly thought-provoking. While we spend the show pondering just where we stand in this hierarchy of items and uses, the verdict is finally reached that we are all tools, we laughingly nod in agreement because the argument has been so well made that there could never be any doubt otherwise.
In the final show of the evening, we see André and Dorine by Spanish company Kulunka Teatro. The unique selling point for this piece is that there is no text, and it employs the use of masks. It’s a truly beautiful sight to behold on stage, lovingly performed and presented. We’re lured into a world occupied by an elderly couple and their son, with the parents going through the standard life. Their arguments and mannerisms garner laughter from the audience, and the style of the piece is established. We think we know what we’re in for until we figure out what this show is truly about, and the laughter turns to tears. Even without a spoken text, we soon learn that the elderly woman is suffering from Alzheimer’s, which only gets worse throughout the piece. Suddenly the physicality of the actors takes over and every little movement represents something so much more sincere than what we originally thought. It’s a piece about coping as best we can and looking for the good times, however far between they may be. The masks are beautifully designed and the same expressions adorned never really give you the closure you desperately seek. The use of masks mean that the characters on stage could be anyone, and that’s what makes it so gripping. No verbal text is needed because we fill the gaps in ourselves and this causes us to connect with the piece and that’s why it has such an emotional impact.
The Best Of BE Festival proves to be a celebration. Although it consists of completely different pieces, by three completely different companies from three completely different countries, how text is perceived and utilised in performance is what ties all three together, even though it is never explicitly stated. This show is showcasing spectacular pieces of new work that provide a fresh, fascinating and truly entertaining night of theatre that should definitely be seen by all.
Reviewed On 23 February 2018 | Image: Contributed