Eccentric Performance of a Fungal Invasion
Nicole Strecker - Deutschlandradio Kultur (24 March 2013)

Mushrooms are likely to remain after the apocalypse has annihilated all human life. In MUSH-ROOM Grace Ellen Barkey brilliantly choreographs the rebellion of mushrooms. Whatever happens, they are set to stay. The apocalypse may wipe away all human life, but mushrooms and their myriad of spores are bound to remain in some of the earth’s corners. Proclaiming their battle cry “We are mushrooms!”, the fungi are on the rampage. So what better place to start celebrating their ubiquitous presence than the theatre? In this place, mushrooms do not shoot out of the ground. In scenographer Lot Lemm’s fantastic set, they dangle upside down on paper ropes like beacons, replenished with spores at the humans’ every breath. The world is always upside down in Grace Ellen Barkey’s dance performances. Born in Indonesia, the co-founder of Needcompany is often regarded as the ethereal emotional entity within the dark and bizarre tales created by Jan Lauwers. Witness her embodiment of female suffering in his productions at the Ruhrtriennale about child abuse in small villages, or racial discrimination. Barkey’s own plays are different, less raw and critical. She is ideological, apparently a late hippie girl, one for whom the real revolution consists of lustful lunacy and its anarchy of sex, drugs and - in this particular case - the musical avant-garde of the Seventies. The Residents composed the music for Barkey’s new play. This notorious band has been cultivating its “Thomas Pynchon” image within the world of pop for decades. Nobody knows what they really look like as they always perform in eyeball masks. Indeed, one of their masquerades may have served as inspiration for this mushroom play: forty years ago they ridiculed The Beatles as the most famous “mushroom heads” on the planet. Against The Residents’ musical backdrop, the dancers on Barkey’s stage explore a kind of gnome rebellion, wearing strange white face coverings; jelly bag caps at the back, face bandages and bank robber stockings at the front. They are half emaciated, half criminal. The mushroom as the crazy underdog. In tribute to these forest and world occupiers, Barkey has created a series of original comic choreographies. To this end, a performer must to be a yoga guru, able to twist their limbs in a knot. As a result it becomes difficult to tell the spores’ upside from downside. Fantastic dancer Sung-Im Her unfurls as a super-erotic, sensuous spore, bare bosomed in a snake-like cocoon. Driven by the urge to reproduce, the others ram against each other with abandon, colliding in impeccably executed clumsiness; irrepressible sex maniacs who don’t know what to put where. In between, offbeat texts devoid of sense are recited, in which the mushrooms resume the incantation of the Magic Mushroom and denounce the mushroom-eating humans with chavvy posturing, reminding us of the ubiquitous presence of fungi in the human body. Much of what takes place during this evening has pretensions of nothing but pure nonsense, albeit brilliantly staged. The irrational is lodged in every revolution, and anarchy, hubris and hyperbole threaten at every revolt. Grace Ellen Barkey’s eccentric performance about a mushroom invasion is also about this. Her rebellion spreads no anger, however, only the horror of invincible hilarity.

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