Crazy Mushrooms
Pieter T'Jonck - De Morgen (28 March 2013)

Grace Ellen Barkey extends the boundaries of her own stage madness You may have thought that in This door is too small (for a bear), Grace Ellen Barkey had reached the peak of theatrical lunacy. But her Mush-Room expands the boundaries of collective madness even further. Mush-Room opens like a fairytale: the actors throw themselves exuberantly onto strange objects on the stage. They turn out to be gigantic examples of folded paper shapes that unfold to form huge mushrooms. They are pulled up in the air on primitive pulleys, where the actors merrily pull strings to make them dance while smoke pours out on every side. At a later stage a golden mushroom heralds the apotheosis. There is barely any plot to this piece, more like a pattern in the style of True Blood. The ‘world union of mushrooms’ (not vampires, for a change) is seeking recognition from mankind through its spokesman Maarten Seghers. The actors are unrecognisably disguised for the occasion. Even more than in Chunking, The Porcelain Project and This door… bizarre masks in white cotton reduce their human expressions to odd grimaces. Are the mushrooms’ intentions really honest? Some doubt is shed on this when in a TV show they act shamelessly towards the host Julien Faure. As a preventive measure he then eliminates all the mushrooms by eating them. A fatal move: he turns into a mushroom himself. In the meantime some monstrous white worms turn up (or are they mermaids? – which is what Sung-Im Her briefly makes you suspect). The strangest things also happen with boards painted like the growth-rings of a tree. Unrestrained commitment The ‘story’ jerks and judders onward, with peculiar silences and bizarre transitions. It is the music by The Residents that keeps the show afloat, with its film or opera score that merrily tinkers with the history of these genres. Sometimes the actors seem to be wondering where this story is going to go, as it seems to be going in all directions at once (or none). You do discern a few socially critical elements such as the fear of the foreign and the mediatisation of conflicts. But you could just as easily see surrealistic dream images influenced by hallucinogenic mushrooms. But none of the explanations really holds up. The play itself in fact sabotages this extremely thoroughly. There is however one ‘motif’ that cannot be ignored: that it is enough for a group of performers to have unrestrained commitment, sparing nothing, to turn the wildest imaginings into reality. This makes MUSH-ROOM strikingly reminiscent of the time-honoured commedia dell’arte. In that genre, such fixed characters as Pantalone and Pierrot Lunaire, and equally fixed stories, limited the actors in the extreme, as do the costumes and the utterly insane story in this play. But, precisely for this reason, the form turned out to be highly suited to eliciting tremendous energy (political too) from the actors and audience. Since there was nothing to know or understand, all the attention was turned on the acting. On how the actors locked horns with each other, and what sort of imaginative acting they were able to come up with. Exactly the same occurs in the way the actors communicate, with both each other and the audience. Benoît Gob’s grunting and twaddle is incomprehensible, but you still understand it, even without Maarten Seghers’ explanation to the harebrained viewers. When Yumiyo Funaya or Mohamed Toukabri perform eccentric little dances they conjure up half an (indecent) history of dance. In this piece, what is said is not half as important as how it is said. All ‘received ideas’ simply evaporate. Suddenly anything becomes possible. You hallucinate without eating even a single mushroom. Commedia del funghi, that’s what it is.

Performers weNEEDmoreCOMPANY Invisible Time Contact
Jan Lauwers Grace Ellen Barkey Maarten Seghers performing arts visual arts Film
Full calendar
Books Music Film
Subscribe Archive
NEEDCOMPANY  |  |  Privacy  |  Pro area
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our cookies policy.