Isabella's Room by Jan Lauwers and the Needcompany is a performance combining theater, dance and music (as in: musical, singing...).
Here is a story of a surface. Telling the story of a surface might just be the most difficult thing. When you're on the surface of the stage.
Here is a story where the word "lie" comes back in all the forms, as all its synonyms.
Here is a theater play that is an excuse to tell a story about Lauwers' father. Here is a life of an imagined woman that is an excuse for a theater play. Here is a play that's and excuse for a performance. A performance that's an excuse for a dance piece. A dance piece that's an excuse for a musical.
A musical. In the most common of worlds, that would be the right description, combining all the genres in an entertaining suite. Somehow, this is not enough. And somehow, this isn't necessarily a good sign.
It all starts with an excellent prologue. Excellent, because honest. Lauwers goes to the front of the stage and while the spectators are still entering, starts telling the story of how the play came about, and who plays who, introducing all the performers very casually.
And I would love it all to stay that way. Which it doesn't, because then begins the play. With all the problems a theatrical distance may bring, with all the longdiscourses that the self-centered artists got us used to (the text is also by Lauwers), with the tricks and licks of contemporary theater (suddenly changing subjects, rhythms, levels of performance, juxtaposing various languages and references...). What's my problem with that? Here is an example: For a very long time the confusion between the dead and the live is just confusion. But since anything goes, the characters lose the name of action. Which makes them at the same time surprizing and difficult to believe, and thus completely unsurprizing.
Lauwers himself stays onstage, oscillating between the roles of author and actor, sometimes reminding me of the productions of Tadeusz Kantor, the Polish director that continued directing his actors during some performances. But this is more modern, more slick, clean, and...distant.
In the best moments, it reminds me of some more jazzy and theater-wild version of Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark. Only Lauwers avoids Hollywood stories at all costs. His plot swirls and jumps and stretches to the very limits, creating a contemporary, personal ritual.
The memories brought on stage are more and more violent, the world seems increasingly corrupt and difficult to handle, death leaves nothing behind, neither does bitterness. Still, they dance and sing. And move on. Slowly. I suppose a ritual should be slow, but that's one reason I rarely attend rituals. This is not my time.
Everything is an excuse for everything. A beautiful, stylish excuse. Like in some jazz jam session that struggles for heterogeneity. But where does the jazz go once it's all set and fixed?
"I think you're just confused. You think too much and then your imagination runs wild." - Isabella's Room.
ps: See other reviews here. (damn, am I the only one who isn't extatic about it?)