Grace Ellen's truly nutty world
Guy Duplat - La Libre Belgique

Needcompany revels in a performance that goes fizzing all over the place. Needcompany garnered international acclaim with Jan Lauwers' trilogy (‘Isabella's Room’, etc.) and its merry gang of actors, singers and dancers. They've all come together again in the latest piece by Grace Ellen Barkey, Jan Lauwers' life partner. In ‘This door is too small (for a bear)’, which premiered last Thursday at Kaaitheater in Brussels, we see Benoît Gob from Liège, as a perfectly hilarious larger-than-life bear, ungainly musician Maarten Seghers, who proves himself a better dancer than one would have thought, as well as Julien Faure (Isabella's ‘desert prince’). They're all here again with their drive and their talent for mixing up several genres. Visual artist Lott Lemm's role is crucial in this performance: its concept bears the ‘Lemm&Barkey’ label, ensuring an impetuous mix of visual arts and dance. The performance, chock-full of images and references, crazily fizzes off in all possible directions. It's surrealist and pop art, poetical and utterly outlandish. These few scenes illustrate the piece's ability to offer an invigoratingly whimsical evening. It all starts at a launderette equipped with washing machines, an ironing board, laundry baskets, drying racks and such. This set will be whipped into a frenzy by dancers getting into the washing machines or moving around inside laundry baskets. The ironing board (pulled about by invisible wires) takes up a St. Vitus's dance or starts talking like in a Disney movie. Hoses are pulled out, the pace picks up, veiled or more explicit sexual references abound. It's tacky and childish at once, with these characters dressed up as bears, rabbits or mice, decked out from head to foot in brightly coloured knitted costumes. For contemporary art followers, it's reminiscent of Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy. The rest of the performance is radically different, except for the enduring sweet silliness: young female dancers whose too perfectly synchronised movements remind us of the nautical ballets of Hollywood in the Forties, a side-splitting ‘Swan Lake’ is danced by the men while Julien Faure leaps around, stark naked but armed with a Magritte-like bowler hat to hide ‘that which should not be seen’. A little later the three fellows seem to be shooting a ‘film noir’ by Tim Burton on the encounter of a bear with a mouse. A question rings out: “Do you feel alive?”, and the female dancer yells: “I am alive”. That's the main thing. The ‘show’ ends in exotic splendour with huge wooden blinds decorated with fretwork displaying silhouettes like Javanese puppets or Chinese screens intersecting the stage. The dancers hide between them with big, anachronistic movements, as if they were lost in the middle of an Asian jungle filled with animal sounds (the music is by Rombout Willems). One steps out slightly taken aback, but also elated by this merry mix borne aloft on the company's energy and the unusual visual beauty of the scenography. There is one evening left to plunge boldly into this psychedelic universe.

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