THIS IS THEATRE LIKE IT WAS TO BE EXPECTED AND FORESEEN
This is theatre like it was to be expected and foreseen (Het is theaer zoals te verwachten en te voorzien was): this title immediately sounds like a programme. It confirms a genre (this is theatre) based on its tradition (to be expected). Present and past join forces here with a comparison (as), which only serves to underscore the applause. The title resembles a tautology: we herewith confirm that this is theatre, thus this is Theatre!
The title’s tautological structure (it is as it was) is essentially a double negation. This production is not theatre, and certainly not as was foreseen. What could have been expected was fiction, a group of actors playing a role, who borrowed their lines from someone else, and who pretend to think of these lines on the spot.Theatre as a lie, as a farce. As two hours of a fictional break in the maelstrom that is life. Fabre’s production is at odds with the normal genre divisions. It is more work than play, more reality than fiction, more experienced time rather than time represented, more real space rather than a representation of a place. With the highly affirmative title, This is theatre…, Fabre succeeds in creating a universe that shakes theatre to its core, and which manages to skilfully and definitively tear down any potential definitions that might have still been standing, much like an earthquake. This is theatre…presents itself as an eight-hour work day, in which a set of characters repeat a number of actions and thus work up a sweat until they are exhausted and leave the shop floor once again. These theatre workers have assembled a number of components during this eight-hour period: they have emptied bags of sands, have licked yoghurt from the floor, tried to see who could dress or undress the fastest, covered themselves in shaving foam and washed it off again, etc. Eighteen actions, which make up a Fabre theatre work day. The visitors, on the other hand, resemble a group of tourists, who eye the events with a certain sense of amazement and disbelief. Should they feel like it, they can take a break at the bar and subsequently return. They are free to make it through the day as they want to, in their own way.
Above all, This is theatre… deconstructs the genre’s core business. It does away with appearances and with what Coleridge aptly named ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’. The labour carried out here is real, the beatings effectively hurt, and the exhaustion is not feigned. The visitors share in the fictional beatings as their endurance is also tested, and they are deprived of any recognizable form of support. They are watching something that has made itself unrecognizable in a radical manner. Something that only refers to itself, as labour is essentially wont to do. When, at the end of the work day, the music of the opening scene is played again, the work day can start over, like any work day.
This is theatre… thus is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It has its own preconceived grammar. Aesthetically, it ties in with assembly and installation. For those capable of reading the references, there are references to visual artists such as Iannis Kounellis and Schnabel, but, above all, several references to Jan Fabre’s own universe, with his use of turtles, shaving foam, candles on swinging chairs, parrots and budgerigars, ingredients which Fabre had previously used in his visual work. And for those who are even better readers, This is Theatreoffers an introduction to what fascinates this author-director: his way of dealing with discipline, with the power of repetition and the repetition of power, with the asphyxiation and the revival of the individual, with the party of death amidst burgeoning life.
With his clear eighties look of super 8 projectors, cassette recorders, meat hooks and black and white suits, Fabre manages to strike a crater in the theatre of that era. With his tautological title, he succeeds in dealing theatre a sledgehammer blow, from which it will never recover. (Luk Van den Dries).
Direction: JAN FABRE
Music: GUY DRIEGHE – D
Costumes: POL ENGELS
Assistance to the director: MIET MARTENS, RENéE COPRAIJ
Hair-styling: SAVAGAN (Brussels, Oost-Duinkerke, BE)
CARLIJN KOPPELMANS (Fontys Dance Academy, Tilburg, NL)
Realisation of the costumes: KATARZYNA MIELCZAREK
Technical crew: THOMAS VERMAERCKE, GEERT VAN DER AUWERA
Production manager: TOMAS WENDELEN
Coaching: HANS PETER JANSSENS (singing)
Interns: Giulio Boato (dramaturgy) (University of Bologna, IT), Yorrith Debakker (performer) (Artesis Hogeschool, Antwerp, BE), Zafiria Dimitropoulou (performer) (Karolos Koun Art Theatre School, Athens, GR)
Production re-enactment 2012: TROUBLEYN/JAN FABRE (Antwerp, BE)
In co-production with: DESINGEL (Antwerp, BE), ROMAEUROPA FESTIVAL (Rome, IT)
World premiere 2012: Impulstanz Festival (Vienne, AT)