Grace Ellen Barkey stages crazy dream
Pieter T'Jonck - De Morgen (27 February 2010)

Chinese opera wards off chaos in a launderette**** This Door is Too Small (for a Bear), that’s the title of the latest piece by Grace Ellen Barkey and Lot Lemm. And the title role is played by a colourful woollen bear. Benoît Gob, the cuddly animal who has come to life, tries to create order, but the tide is against him. Until the Chinese opera comes to his aid. At the start of This Door is Too Small you can’t really tell what’s going on. Onstage there’s an array of washing machines, just like a launderette. Except that here they are all made of foam rubber, so are as light as a feather. The six performers leap around with them. There are also drying-racks, an ironing board and a packet of washing powder. When the bear wants to get started, all these things turn out to have a will of their own. The washing machine spits out the dirty washing and goes for a walk. The packet of washing powder and the ironing board prance mischievously up and down when the bear tries to take hold of them. The other performers are experimenting with tubes. Can you connect a water-pipe to someone’s crotch? Or the tube from a tumble-drier to your belly? In a Disney film the crockery talks, and the same applies to the ironing board here. ‘Bear, why do you run a launderette?’ To which the bear replies, ‘I like things to be clean.’ When the ironing board asks, ‘So aren’t you dangerous anymore?’, the bear answers, ‘No, I’m more the productive type.’ In the meantime, all hell has broken loose behind the bear’s back. Other performers now also appear in knitted animal suits. Just as in Chunking, one of Barkey’s previous pieces, this is an obvious reference to Mike Kelley’s parody of the fairytale of innocent childhood. The stage is emptied. Time for some other games. A round of audience seduction, for example. Yumiko Funaya stares at them for minutes on end before turning them on with a sensual dance. While a passage from Swan Lake is playing, Julien Faure, like an exhibitionist prince, has fun first showing and then hiding his genitals with a cap or three tall hats. Sung-Im Her stuffs cloths into her costume until she looks like a fat toad. Maarten Seghers, Benoît Gob and Misha Downey serve up some absurd stories about a mouse and a bear. These goings-on make as much sense as a crazy dream. But everything comes together again at the end. A huge, Chinese-looking screen lights up. Two screens slide back and forth across the stage. This gives rise to mysterious spaces in which the performers dance duets. Sometimes tender, sometimes rough. Suddenly all the chaos seems forgotten, especially when, smiling broadly, they all perform an oriental variety ballet. They look like the model of happiness. But after everything that went before, you know this can’t be true.

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