(photo by Herman Sorgeloos)
Two of Quatre
by Chad Dembski
Do you like to be surprised? This is one of the central questions at the core of performance, or for the people who enjoy going to shows such as “Cheap Lecture” and “The Cow Piece”. The duo of Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, both from the UK have been creating duets since 2002. They have garnered an international reputation for mixing the formality of musical composition with a simple and open approach to performance. They are themselves at all times, very much in the space, with you, with everyone and perform with an awareness of every page they touch, each movement and look to the audience. They create an intimacy that makes you feel you are at an informal party and they are the magicians who don’t have tricks but are armed with an ability to make you feel comfortable, to think and laugh uncontrollably.
The first piece “The Cheap Lecture” (2009) is based on John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing”, a wonderful piece that is both intellectual and musical. Both cerebral and personal, the two performers stand at two microphones and read from their white pages and toss them to the floor. A light music guides them through random thoughts, contemporary musings, and personal desires. They invite you to let it all wash over you, to tune out and to just enjoy the words as it hard to concentrate on their constant banter for the full 40 minutes. Still their charm, wit and extreme comfort with being together and with the audience is as comfortable as the luxurious seats at Usine C. “We’d make work like Pina Bausch if we could. But this is what we’re good at”, is one of the quotes of the show and sums up both the simplicity and lack of pretension of this 40 minute piece.
“The Cow Piece” (2009) is a faster, absurd romp through a book of instructions that has the two performers using 12 plastic cows to play music, tell stories and dance. While the instructions on the pages of the books are not known, they are followed by the performers with as much precision as possible. Some actions are dances in a postmodern style, some are giving names to each of the cows, and some are quick upbeat songs. As the piece rolls on it becomes more and more amusing to see the juxtaposition of the two different performers both obeying their self created commands while also being aware of the absurdity of the situation. I laughed out loud many times as this piece went from confusing to touching to all of bonkers wonderful.
There is only one performance left of “The Cheap Lecture” + “The Cow Piece” tonight at at 8:00 p.m. at Usine C and I recommend it highly if you enjoy contemporary performance or are curious about it. Saturday they perform two other pieces (hence the Quatre Creations) entitled “Counting to One Hundred” and “One Flute Note”, which will also surprise and delight as well.