My wonderful bear’s laundry
EVA-MARIA MAGEL - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (22 May 2010)

The guest performance of Grace Ellen Barkey and the Needcompany in Frankfurt’s Mousonturm There are lots of things we can be grateful for. Just imagine being a bear. Not just any bear, but the bear engaged by Grace Ellen Barkey for her new show. If we were such a bear, we would have to totter over the stage, enveloped in a knitted costume of artificial fibres, with sweat pouring off the brow. The oversized costume looks really great in its lollipop colours – green, yellow, orange – combined with a matching bear face, also in gaudy tones, with an endearing expression. The bear is a good one. But he has bad luck – he never seems to belong anywhere. You can therefore understand why the people on the stage at one moment start jerking and swaying, muttering to themselves or shouting out “I am alive”! Yes, that’s something we can always be grateful for. Nice, that Grace Ellen Barkey reminds this to us. With the German premiere of her new show “This door is too small (for a bear)” in Frankfurt’s Mousonturm, the long-standing co-founder of the Needcompany has once again invested a great amount of effort in an attempt to lead us along a path from the world of bears via the all too human attitudes to the human. The stories seem unending, one merging into the next or being cast aside and picked up later, in images, text and tone. There is the man with the loaf of bread on his head, and, there, the man without a head, and, there, of course, the bear. Not just any bear, but a bear running a laundry, though never attaining the desired degree of cleanliness. A bear who sets the scene with his wild shouts and gesticulations, a bear constantly turning up, in the middle of a mass of people, some of whom are intent on dirty thoughts – a “penis dance” to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. What we don’t see on the stage - and don’t forget that Barkey masters explicitness -, takes place in the heads of the audience. An old, though still functioning magician’s hat, accompanied by clapping sounds on extremely innocent extremities, is enough to conjure up an erotic audio picture. Though Barkey is a teller of fairy tales, the tales are strictly for adults. Lot Lemm, who has been working with Barkey for a long time now, makes use this time of soft materials in his perfectly lit stage setting. The washing machines the performers pull over their extremities or crawl into like children into self-built caves, are made of soft plastic. The most amusing solo of the clothes horse in the corner is unparalleled on international stages - it’s amazing what you can do with a bit of metal and a few lengths of cord. And then there's the ironing board, having interesting discussions with the bear. The bear, that “animal” (there are a few other knitted animals as well, used by Barkey in earlier shows), takes us on a fairly human search, while at the same time the five “humans”, sometimes dancing beautifully, illustrate with a half-baked yearning what life is about. Using Barkey’s yardstick – the number of grains of sand or stars in the universe – this is quite a lot. It is only towards the end that things start to soften up, slow down and even get a trifle sad – between the wonderful hanging screens reminiscent of South-East Asian carvings. It is a pleasure to watch Misha Downey, Julien Faure, Yumiko Funaya, Benoît Gob, Sung-Im Her and Maarten Seghers, a longstanding team of very gifted dancers and performers, for whom no volte is too banal, no subtlety too complex to end up sprawling on the stage. For all this, there is not much actual action in this sequence of scenes bearing the stamp of all shows produced by Barkey since the late 80’s. The question put by one of the performers – what is the difference between psychedelic and surreal? - sounds almost presumptuous, given the fact that the pretty and calculated show does not make any real attempt to arrive at an answer. We are very amused, but there is nothing really scratchy in this show - except, probably, the bear´s knitted costume."

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