Art killed by entertainment
Guy Duplat - La Libre Belgique (20 September 2011)

"The Art of Entertainment" by Jan Lauwers is a funny yet cynical reflection on the end of the theatre. A madcap performance, which discusses the coup of entertainment in art. Jan Lauwers’ and Grace Ellen Barkey’s "Needcompany" is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Over the years it has contributed an unparalleled mix of theatre, dance, song, performance and the visual arts to European theatres. French audiences discovered this singular talent in Avignon and on other stages following the triumph of Isabella’s room. To mark this anniversary, the company has created "The Art of Entertainment" at the Burgtheater in Vienna, where the company is in residence but the performance has now been transposed to Belgium at the Kaaitheater. Here the merry band once again displays its customary vitality (Viviane De Muynck, Benoît Gob, Grace Ellen Barkey, Julien Faure and others), as they are gathered around that formidable actor, Dirk Roofthooft. As usual they are crazy, creative, but this time, Jan Lauwers has stripped their performance of the glue of previous works: no songs, the only music is Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater", not much dancing either. Everything is centered around a funny but caustic notion, around our society which is characterized by spectacle and the difficulties that the theatre and the actor experience in this environment to share their art. It is almost as if Jan Lauwers has given us his testament. The set is a television studio for the live broadcast of a "reality show" with a great chef (a highly fashionable concept) who prepares an amazing last meal for a great actor (Dirk Roofthooft) who will commit suicide live before millions of viewers. Time for the show to kick off, led by Viviane De Muynck and with the help of Dr. Joy, the aptly named doctor who will assist the actor to commit suicide. The performance has its defects, the participants stumble over ropes, fall down stairs, crash into things. A gorgeous blonde in an evening dress films everything live, very close to the performers, and even films the insides of their mouths, symbolising the ubiquitous obscenity of Youtube and of movies on mobile phones. But who cares if things go wrong, "the show must go on", time for some mindless chatter and Viviane De Muynck is perfect at it. You need to fill the time with void chatter in order to make sure that the viewers continue to watch. Dirk Roofthooft expounds on his career, on the theatre, on sex, life, and shares various memories. He is almost pathetic when he wants to name his favorite poem by Garcia Lorca, but is unable to even remember where he left his copy of it. When an actor starts to lose his memory, he is left with nothing. Death is only a step away. And the end of Dirk Roofthooft, live on TV, in effect constitutes the assassination of the theatre by the shallow and hollow art of TV entertainment.

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