The extremely gentle violence of Needcompany
Fabienne Darge - LE MONDE (-- 2005)

After Isabella’s Room, the festival’s 2004 cult production, Jan Lauwers presents Needlapb 10 at the Cloître des Célestins Avignon certainly needed it: a shared moment. ‘Welcome ladies and gentlemen,’ as the venue’s temporary host, the Flemish Jan Lauwers, welcomed the audience at the start of the evening. ‘This is not a performance. What we are actually going to do is create a mental space: you are going to work for us a little.’ So, not really a performance, inside the old walls of the Cloître des Célestins, but a Needlapb, in other words a work in progress, a creative laboratory in which the spectator is asked to participate. After Isabella’s Room, the festival’s 2004 cult production, we once again see the same company of actors-dancers-musicians, still equally capable and magnetic. The incredible Viviane De Muynck, Lauwers’ favourite actress, is also with them again. In this case she is responsible for mixing the cocktails offered to the spectators in the course of the evening. We also once again encounter Lauwers’ many-sided art, with no single focal point, a mixture of words, dance, music and images, with an exceptional talent for multiplying and crossing points of departure. The first extract the audience was given to reflect upon was a series of ‘anthropological portraits on the subject of violence’. A woman can no longer stand her neighbours. A man has stabbed another man to death but no longer knows what happened. A woman ‘tries to be normal’ and see her family. A man explains why he no longer wants to help people. Stories in the Raymond Carver mould, so real, so banal, that they become weird and wonderful. A sadistic and self-destructive urge. As always, the question at the heart of Lauwers’ work concerns the fear of fellow men and the many ways it makes itself apparent. THE PERFORMER AND THE LOBSTER This is followed by a long monologue ‘for a melancholy mind’, performed by Viviane De Muynck who, in her men’s clothes and false beard, looks like Jean-Paul Roussillon. She has a dazzling presence. The first lines are, ‘I am a bit unusual, a little peculiar if you prefer. A bit uncomprehended, and even incomprehensible...’ The cocktails are followed by a complex and fairly crazy scene, The Lobster Story. It presents the various types and levels of storytelling, including the television story, the psychological account and the naturalistic account. The women, in long crinoline skirts in the 19th-century Russian style, and the men, dressed in white, act in that typical Lauwers way, both distant and incredibly concrete, and thereby undermine the romantic cliches. There is also a film which once again, with appalling force, links up with the initial issue of violence. As if the Needcompany performers were offering us the material to make a performance ourselves. This is mainly for real fans, though the others are here given a unique opportunity to discover this Flemish theatre-maker’s curious workshop.

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Jan Lauwers Grace Ellen Barkey Maarten Seghers performing arts visual arts Film
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