14 Sep 2017 - Knack Focus Lisaboa Houbrechts

The Middle Ages as an echo for today

Kuiperskaai brings boundless energy to the stage: the brute and sensually brazen acting power in 1095, directed by Lisaboa Houbrechts, at times arouses blushes, at other times compassion: be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Play: 1095
Company: Kuiperskaai
In a sentence: = Young, explosive theatre that does full justice to the term with a daring show.
High points: = Too many and perhaps a little too dirty to mention.

“I heard you should sit at the front,” we hear a spectator whisper before the show begins. This eavesdropper takes the stolen advice to heart and sits in the first row. Certainly not a bad idea, but we advise sensitive souls or people with mysophobia to sit a little more to the back. You see, a fleck of spittle might very well land on your collar, or a sweaty buttock brush close by. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The show takes us to the year 1095. The good old 11th century? No way: it was a time when religious wars and religious mania were shaking the world’s foundations. On the other hand, an age full of peace and quiet wouldn’t have produced anywhere nearly as explosive material for drama. It’s immediately obvious why scriptwriter Victor Lauwers chose the Middle Ages. Not only does it provide the ideal background for grotesque characters, it’s also a period in history that reflects today’s problematic situation with the Middle East and refugees.
We follow Benny, a young Benedictine monk from St. Bavo’s Abbey in Ghent. Having no other recourse but to feel, he follows a route that takes him from France to Córdoba, traveling in the company of an obliging brother, a runaway slave called Num, and a farmer’s wife, Bertha, whose husband has gone off on a crusade.
With pursuers close on their heels, romance blossoms between Num and Benny. However, Bertha and Num also dare to explore each other’s bodies now and then. What the heck, all of the men – or almost all of them – have taken off for Jerusalem, so they can freely indulge in their desires. That is, until Benny also casts his eye on Num.
What with its music, projections, fantastic costumes (feathers in the cap for costume designer Sietske Van Aerde), but especially loads of acting pleasure, 1095 is a play not to be missed. The fact that its makers live for theatre is already obvious after the first scene, in which the two actresses give it all they’ve got. The spitting, screaming, fighting, clawing and lovemaking go on with gusto throughout the whole show, dishing up to the audience beauty in all of its ugliness and ugliness in all of its beauty.
No matter how beautiful the costumes, they often lie in heaps on the floor next to an overheated, naked and sweaty body. This sometimes produces uneasy moments – seriously, don’t book tickets with your mother-in-law – but doesn’t come across as uncalled-for. The magnified feelings and bestial impulses represent the cruelty of the age, the fanaticism of the 11th century and the raw emotions that lie beneath the surface of human beings.
Is the nudity and the sensual lovemaking the female director’s and the two female actors’ way of saying, “Here we are, without shame or hesitation”? In light of the recent discussions on women in theatre, this is a question we cannot get around. 1095 is a production where women are running the show – literally, in the form of directing; and on stage, in the form of highly inflammable female energy. It’s the ultimate proof that a splendid future is in store for women in the theatre world, and that projects like P.U.L.S. will undoubtedly also have female coaches in a few years.

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