Creators: Pieter De Buysser &Hans Op de Beeck
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
The audience’s curiosity is piqued as soon as they begin to take their seats. Dominating the vast black box space there is a giant trunk, and nothing else. As the lights remain on the audience and a tension building piece of music begins to play, the audience are anxious to see what is in store for them.
Pieter De Buysser takes to the stage alone, telling the story about how he met a man, Sebastian, at an Occupy demonstration. Sebastian’s insertion into Pieter’s life opens up a world of fantasy, conspiracy and new experiences. De Buysser takes his audience on an energetic, poetic and visually charged journey, recalling his own experiences and giving the audience an insight into the man that changed his life.
Book Burning is highly visual, aided by the highly impressive visual art “staging” provided by Hans Op de Beeck. It states in the programme that “Hans has not made a ‘stage set’ to illustrate Pieter’s story, and Pieter’s story does not explain Hans’ object; from the outset, these two developed together and like autonomous worlds, overlapped”. This contributes to the sincerity of De Buysser’s performance. De Buysser never gets bogged down in the set, spectacular as it is, instead he allows it to enhance his story, and the audience’s experience.
One of the most interesting things about the performance was the set. Changing state from prop to character, Hans Op de Beeck’s work creates a small fragment of the world that De Buysser portrays. Allowing the audience to reflect visually on the story, allows for a greater sense of empathy, and ultimately increases the entertainment factor of the show.
In terms of the subject matter, the audience is forced to suspend reality for most of the performance. De Buysser is highly affable, and the audience are very open to his story. His tone is musical and the monologue moves over the audience in waves of highs, lows, comedies and tragedies. The merging of reality and fantasy works well for the first sixty minutes of the ninety minute performance but the show feels a bit strained and weary as it reaches its conclusion. The sheer volume of one man shows taking to the stage in Dublin recently is a testament to the refocusing of Irish theatre around story. For Book Burning, it was just a little too drawn out to work. The set, and the story, spoke for themselves and didn’t need quite so much emphasis.
Ultimately Book Burning was a highly innovative and engaging experience. Light and interesting, De Buysser delivered an entertaining and enlightening performance.
Photo courtesy of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Reviewed on October 11th.