Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Still Standing You

(photo credit: Phile Deprez)
All you can do (not to laugh or cry)
by Chad Dembski

CAMPO is a company based in Belgium that creates contemporary performance in all shapes, genres and forms.  Still Standing You was first presented in Montreal at the 2011 Festival Transamériques  (FTA ) at the same venue, La Chapelle.  It is as  basic as it gets; two male performers, no set, no sound or music, minimal lighting and basic costuming (jeans and a t-shirt).  

He talks about eating poutine, wearing layers that make him an “onion” and how he misses home sometimes.

As I enter the space, Guilherme is sitting on Pieter’s straightened legs, on top of his feet and he smiles at us as we enter.  He begins in English and introduces himself and talks about the three weeks he has spent in Canada (the show was just at the PuSh festival in Vancouver and most recently at the National Arts Centre in a duet series).  He talks about eating poutine, wearing layers that make him an “onion” and how he misses home sometimes.  His opening speech is endearing, almost touching and makes him instantly likeable, a reminder that truth can instantly make a connection.  Pieter’s legs begin to buckle, he is in obvious agony but persists to support his friend, he will not give up.  This dynamic of support, pushing the body to the limit and humour play a constant role in the piece.  Guilherme maintains his connection to the audience, often giving asides (about the Montreal winter, the Matrix) as the duo wrestle, play, punish each other, dare each other and push each other to do more and more audacious tasks. 

While often labeled dance, I would argue this show is as much theatre (or performance) as dance, as the connection between the two performers is intense, compelling and tells a story.  They seem to rip apart contemporary dance, it’s clichés (lots of underwear) and all the preciousness that can sometimes be a wall for an audience.  This playful but dangerous game they play is filled with hilarious moments (growling like animals, playing with sweat), and terrifying moments (whipping each other with belts).  Like theatre, there is always a conflict, both with each other and with their own bodies, which struggle to maintain the acrobatic-like physical feats.  

Just when the show seemed to almost be the same thing over and over, an intimacy emerges which is tender, beautiful and highly original.  Simple gestures of being together went beyond sexuality (the last third of the show is completely naked) to reveal a common humanity between them that was highly original and stunning.

I highly recommend Still Standing You as a piece of performance that playfully engages the audience while daring us to question what our limits are.  Théatre La Chapelle and its Artistic Director Jack Urdashkin should be applauded for bringing in this ambitious work that challenges conventions and is a great glimpse at the work currently being developed in Europe. 

Still Standing You continues to February 16

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