My visitor is a Swedish stage actor, so through him I’ve encountered some very interesting modern theatre that I would otherwise have missed. When his director heard he was going to Berlin, she said there was only one thing he needed to see, or rather, that he must see: Gob Squad, and their new show Before Your Very Eyes, which is made together with Campo. So we went to the HAU1 theatre yesterday (the premiere was Thursday and the show ends today – all sold out). The copy reads:
Ladies and Gentlemen! Gob Squad proudly present a live show with real children. A rare and magnificent opportunity to witness seven lives lived in fast forward…Before Your Very Eyes!
Live show. Real children. Eine Live-Show mit ECHTEN Kindern! What’s this, a variety show? A cirkus? Well, sort of. There were indeed seven children on stage, caught in a little room with walls of mirrored glass, so that we could see them but they couldn’t see us. Maybe I would call most of the seven actors young adults (they were between 8 and 14), but that’s beside the point. And the point was that this was/isn’t a children’s play. It’s a play for adults, where all the roles are played by children. Where adult words, ideas and objects (cigarettes!) are put in the mouths of children.
And that evokes so many questions. Which is why this is the most brilliant piece I’ve seen on stage in a long time, or, maybe, ever.
That’s a good beginning. The sound of a small heart beating.
Photo by Phile Deprez.
Before Your Very Eyes takes place on so many levels. It’s daring to use children in the same way one can use animals – for the pleasure of adults. Is it ok for us to watch them play? We’re forced to this question. And then there’s the whole pragmatical and symbolical discussion: Is it ok to let a child smoke a cigarette on stage? Is it ok if the cigarette is fake? (Which I don’t know if it was.) Is it ok if they don’t inhale? Or is the whole concept of a child smoking degrading to children in general? Next question: Is it ok for a child to talk about sex in the same way as an adult would? Hm. And what about taking kids out of school and putting them in a touring show like this – can that really be justified, even if they’re having the time of their lives and getting a kick start into acting?
As I said, brilliant. And politically extremely daring.
But brilliant ideas and script only take you that far. In the end, it’s all about delivery; the actors and the director. And this was one of the best acting I’ve ever seen on a Berlin stage. I got my favourite pretty soon – the amazing Fons, whose presence made me shiver – but in the end I was impressed and touched by all of the actors. Not to mention the work the director has done together with them. Again, animal training comes to mind, which of course is the point; what we have here is seven kids delivering wisdoms about life – so convincing, and with such perfect timing that it brought tears to my eyes.
Ladies and Gentlemen – don’t miss the show of the decade!
- premiere 28 April 2011 at HAU 1, Berlin/ Germany
- 29 & 30 April at HAU 1, Berlin/ Germany
- 5 – 7 & 12 – 14 May at CAMPO, Ghent/ Belgium
- 26 & 27 May at Stamsund Festival, Stamsund/ Norway
- 2 – 4 June at FFT, Düsseldorf/ Germany
- 18 – 20 August at NOORDERZON, Groningen/ Netherlands
- 10 & 11 September at Festival de la Batie, Geneva/ Switzerland
- 16 & 17 September at Frascati, Amsterdam/ Netherlands
- 29, 30 September & 1 October at brut, Vienna/ Austria
- 15 & 16 October at Archa, Prague/ Czech Republic
- 21 & 22 October at VIE, Modena/ Italy
- 25 & 26 November at Next Festival, Kortrijk/ Belgium