Dancing Hallucinogenic Mushrooms With Whirlwind Potential
Sarah Heppekausen - NRZ/WAZ (25 March 2013)

Grace Ellen Barkey’s dance theatre premieres MUSH-ROOM at PACT Zollverein. Absurdities in Wonderland, with high entertainment value. They are all very jittery. All wound up, hovering towards the audience, bouncing and grinning. Whirlwinds in black, with white knots on their heads, they pass themselves off as psychoactive mushrooms. Over the next one and a half hours, they will barely rest. Crazed creatures in relentless movement, aroused spores, modifying enigmas, revolutionaries hitting it off. Grace Ellen Barkey is once again choreographing in service of the expansion of consciousness. The co-founder of Needcompany appeals not to the intellect but to the fantasy, through fantasy. What we witness on stage is not unlike a drug-induced trip. It should come as no surprise that the main actors in her new production are impersonating mushrooms triggering an astonishing whirlwind. Designer Lot Lemm, with whom Barkey has collaborated with for years, has designed a proper Wonderland. Hanging from the ceiling are beautiful filigree mushrooms. When the live mushrooms pull on the ropes, they also start to move. “Then the things dance”, as someone recounts. The rest of what is said should not be taken any more seriously than the addled words of someone hallucinating. A movement for the acceptance of all fungi is proclaimed, the rules of Mushroomland are spelled out, words starting with “f” are searched for. For Barkey, the act of speech does not generate meaning: it is merely preoccupation. All remain hyperactive throughout the production. Mohamed Mushroom, for example, is the breakdancer among the mushrooms. Others perform war dances. Driven by the urge to reproduce, spores ram against each other with abandon, wriggle and squirm. A rampant and swarming image filled with groaning body activists. This continues to the point when the only non-mushroom, Julien, ceases his stoic and senseless bonding activity, and declares war on the mushrooms: culling by devouring them. When the mushrooms go to war, decked out in silly neon costumes, lurid indigenous raffia skirts and home-made armour, the evening turns brutal. Absurdity turns to ridicule. However, through the outlandish music of avant-garde band The Residents (in eyeball masks), one is transported into the world of science fiction and is reminded of a Japanese glockenspiel, lending the production its appealing originality. Barkey’s microscope provides an explicit glimpse into a number of bodily mutations. Those who are able to join in this atmospheric-acrobatic mushroom party, lost in thought, are embarking upon a journey through a world of pure fantasy.

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