Needcompany gives a convincing performance with their trilogy about life and death
Eva Maria Klinger - nachtkritik

The fantastic cornucopia of life The wave of enthusiasm brought by the Belgian Needcompany while on tour has now gripped audiences at the Salzburg Festival. Jan Lauwers, the 51 year-old head of this unique ensemble, almost seemed surprised by the thunderous final applause, as if he had not expected such exuberant acclaim in Salzburg of all places. Remember that the Perner Island audience had just spent six hours sitting on hard chairs not designed for even an hour of comfort. That's the price of bliss. And what a bliss it was, dished out by those versatile artists with their enthusiasm and intensity! Breathing to the same rhythm The Needcompany is an elementary happening. With the passion of street musicians they dive into dance, song, music, fulfilling the highest artistic standards. Their bodily wild acting, their relentless commitment, their lingual perfection and their technical ability are without comparison. Welded together by over 200 days a year on tour, the Needcompany breathes to the same rhythm, creating costumes, choreography and music in collaboration. The fairy-tale, ambiguous and absurd stories, thought out by Jan Lauwers and mixing fiction with reality, get expanded by the ensemble, handing out poetry, wisdom, emotion, and existing without any technical wonders. This touring theatre lives from the radiance of its actors. The décor is just a collection of props with something sculpted about it. Don’t forget that Jan Lauwers had been a visual artist before setting up his first performance group in 1979 and the Needcompany in 1986. Life is as strong as death When, in "The Deer House", several dozen white deer torsos made of soft plastic fall from the ceiling or are dragged across the enormous stage, it might have an effect - but the ultimate objective is to produce a complete work of art. What the individual stories are saying is almost irrelevant. The Needcompany’s perpetual theme is life, love, death and the search for happiness. The major questions are about reality and real life. As a modification of this year's Festival motto, the trilogy could be subtitled "Life is as strong as death". For in each production the dead remain amongst the living. The three parts "Isabella's Room" (2004), "The Lobster Shop" (2006) und "The Deer House" (first performed in Salzburg 2008) are all works in themselves. For the Festival they have been welded together under the title of "Sad Face/Happy Face", and subtitled "Three Stories about the Human Character". Weaved in with the events of the last century The starting point for "Isabella's Room was the diary of Jan Lauwers' father, whose life spanned most of the 20th century. The collection of African objets d’art, witnesses of colonialism, that he left behind, is to be found in Isabella’s room in Paris. Now old and blind, Isabella looks back on her life. An abandoned baby, she only learns that her foster father was her real father on his death. This deceit brings up the question of lies and truth, with which Isabella is so often confronted in her life. Her three loves and her unquenched longing for Africa are woven into the politics of the last century. In "Isabella’s Room", the wonderful Viviane de Muynck, gracefully balancing her copious body on stiletto heels, tells of the life, the loves and the suffering of Isabella, fervently – as a 70 year-old - kissing a youngster, her grandson. This captivating text-dance-song production has now been performed 180 times the world over. While one actor narrates the story, another sings softly, a third plays an instrument, and the rest dance or mime what’s happening. "The Lobster Shop" tells the story of parents’ grief over their son’s accidental death and their nightmares oscillating between madness and reality. Never stand still "The Lobster Shop" is also a reflection on identity. The father is a professor of genetic engineering and quite successful at cloning. A lobster also has a part to play. The initial stimulus for "The Deer House" came with the news of the death of dancer Tijen Lawton’s brother. He had been a war photographer working in Kosovo. His last photos and his diary lead to a deer house in the mountains where a strange family breed deer antlers for customers in the Far East. Once again the changeover from epic to dramatic fascinates, with every sentence, every picture capturing the audience's fantasy. The three-part-marathon is without doubt an overdose. Dispensed in single doses, each work is a perfect performance, to be followed closely in all its facets. Wherever you find Jan Lauwers’ Needcompany giving a guest performance, GO THERE!

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