Boris Charmatz/Gisèle Vienne review – sleepwalking, with vampires | Dance


Whistle while you work? French choreographer Boris Charmatz goes several steps better, whistling while he dances. And how: warbles, trills, hoots, wheezes, gargles and yes, a few tunes too, including bits from Bach, Sinatra, the Pink Panther and the spaghetti western. All this during an hour-long solo which starts with a somnambulant walk in near-darkness and continues through circuit jogging, pat-a-cake slaps, hurls, dives, bum-shuffling, creepy-crawling and plain old lying down and taking a breather.

Entitled Somnole, the piece explores the state between sleeping and waking. Charmatz, bare-bodied but for a pleated skirt, becomes less a performer than a vessel, a fleshy instrument of pipes and cavities that resound with thoughts and images that are not his own, but rather flow through him from the ether. It’s engrossing; also, meandering.

How to respond to Gisèle Vienne’s magical, banal, exasperating, grandiloquent, seductive, repulsive, overpowering, underwhelming, gratuitous and never less than impactful staging (the terms dance, theatre or installation seem misleading) that she titles This Is How You Will Disappear? It feels less like a “piece” than some deranged, mushroomy manifestation from the dank compost of the human psyche.

The setting is an impressively rendered forest, frequently so fogged that its mists roll right out into the audience. In one particularly hallucinatory scene, it seems to breathe, glow and growl like a living creature. The noisome soundtrack (Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg) ranges from drenching amplifications and reverbs to thunderous rumblings and sonic smears.

Sound and set rather upstage the action, which involves three slow-moving characters: Jonathan Capdevielle as a sadistic coach, Nuria Guiu Sagarra a trainee gymnast (note that the work was created in 2010, years before stories began breaking of widespread sexual abuse in gymnastics), and Jonathan Schatz a pale rock star who, according to a voiceover (text by regular Vienne collaborator Dennis Cooper), has murdered and raped his girlfriend. Coach bludgeons the rock star and fastens like a vampire to his neck. The gymnast sings a plaintively innocent song. Four lifesize figures in hoodies stand next to an orange tent. The coach shoots arrows into a tree. In comes a real-life wolf-dog (in other productions of this piece, it’s a bird of prey). Everything swells with portent – but why? Haven’t the foggiest.

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