Creator: Ester Natzijl
Performer: Esmee van Lierre
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
There’s something mesmerising about good puppetry that makes you forget you are watching an artificial creation and in Ester Natzjil’s haunting Watching, ceci n’est pas de deux we witness a defining moment in dance, drama and puppetry.
Originally performed by Natzijl herself, the piece is now performed by Esmee van Liere and a nameless puppet. To call it though is somewhat disingenuous, however, as this is truly a duo performance.
Androgynous, part humanoid, part alien, this creation of latex and foam takes on what seems, despite your brain telling you it’s impossible, a living breathing form. As van Lierre places her arm into the puppet it’s almost an assault, the puppet shuddering at its penetration. From there on in it becomes a battle between the two, puppeteer challenging her creation, creature overcoming its creator.
This is no children’s Emu or Orville, however. There’s something much more sensual, much more sinuous here. It’s a passionate relationship that turns darker but despite the darkness, it’s a symbiotic relationship that both partners need. As the duet intensifies and the strains of Tchaikovsky turn the fighting into Ballet the piece becomes more passionate, a balance of the partnership both sides have caught to master.
Running at just over half an hour, it’s a brief but intense experience that proves to be a defining moment in theatre. Natzijl’s creation and van Lierre’s performance are masterclasses in defining character, that one of those characters may not be an actual human doesn’t matter. This stunning performance redefines our opinion of what puppetry actually means but beyond that it also redefines the possibilities for both theatre and dance in a performance that will long in both the memory and the soul.
In what has already been a strong Dutch Season at Brighton Fringe, Watching, ceci n’est pas de deux may prove not only to be the highlight of the season but the entire fringe.
Reviewed on 3 June 2017 at The Warren
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