LOVE THEATRE: "The Piero Della Francesca Cabaret (Nieuwpoorttheater, Ghent [Belgium]), 4 May 1992.

Theatre review by Zachàr Laskewicz

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Love Theater is an independent entity inside the New York-Hungarian Collective known as Squat Theatre.  I was naturally interested in this performance because of my own experience in stidying the work of the Squat theatre and their performances where the fragmented nature of everyday reality becomes confused with presentation of performance events through the use of theatre with a window directly onto the street.  However, from the programme notes supplied with the performance, one receives a picture of an entirely different theatre, conforming to more traditional notions of possibilities for the expression of reality in the theatre.  Some kind of 'total' performance is described, deliberately recalling the successes of art in its creation of persepctive, and slo humanism through an expression of the human soul and the 'integrity' of the individual.  The performance supposedly takes its influence from the life of the Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca who lived in Arrezo, Italy.  Below is an excerpts from the programme notes which given an impression of the influences from this important artist:


I will call the play Piero della Francesca Cabaret.  Yes, I am attracted to him for the revelation that the artist's main task is to preserve human dignity.  Just by the fact that a human being is capable of reflecting upon, recreating and changing his own existence demands a great deal of respect, regardless of his social status, whether he be judge, victim or criminal.  The play is a cabaret because reality is a mockery of human dignity, but this should not strip the effort to praise the others.  Praise the others.  Amen.


The performance begins with the presentation of the set, an example of the typical perspectivism that showed its face in Renaissance painting and the theatre.  It is apparently a presentation of Piero's ideal city, a wonderful, mathematicaly balanced plain.  One could get the impression from reading the programme notes and seeing the set that a celebration would be presented about the life of a painter and his ability to express himself through his art, a celebration presented through dance, song and theatre.  This is deliberately misleading, as the performance itself stands against every notion of artistic expression created in Renaissance Europe and parodies in every way Piero della Francesca, his work, his life and his very existence.  Through this, it manages to parody almost every imaginable theatre convention that we have inherited from the Renaissance.  What was presented was an uproar, outrageously funny, but also a quite complex collage of events, instances, formed though a fragmentation of American existence (Jewish, Black American, native India and so forth) set against constant images recognizable from theatre traditions and famous Renaissance paintings.  This is undoubtedly the most exciting theatre performance I have seen for a long time.


Because of the fragmented nature of the performance, it is impossible of course to even try and give a premise of the action that took place.  It is only possible to give impressions and note events which were particulary penetrating.  As mentioned, all that has happened in European art that has grown out of supposed artistic 'innovations' that occurred during the Renaissance is spoken strongly against.  The performance becomes quickly absurd through a collage of particularly American episodes - fragments from newspapers, theatre clichés, court room dramas, connections with the Vietnam war, bedroom scenes.  A particularly striking device is used at various times during the performance, an automated roling rubber band that moves performers from somewhere in the middlge of the stage to the front of the stage.  It is used to present absurd montages taken fro famous paintings that then, for no appparent reason other than to highlight the absurdity of the image, are moved to the front of the stage.  It is also initially effective in emphasizing the complete absurdity of the 'perspective' set which moves off into the distance.  The moveemet of the performers on this part of the stage towards the audience absolutely destroys the effect of the perspective, rendering it ridiculous.  The overall effect of the performance is a fragmented picture of a man who has been totally ruined by al the horrifying events that have occurred around him  It almost becomes a tragedy, if it was not for the constant presence of absurd actions and images creating a somewhat tense between hilarity, absurdity and tragedy.  Particly hilarious was the opera parody which came up towards the end of the piece, particularly targic was the hunger strike of the soldier who did not want to fight.  Effective also was the image of hooded old Russian woman who walks endlessly on the rotating platform while an actor translates a Russian folkd song that plays on the stage.  This is an experience certainly worth seeing twice.


personal addendum - May 2001


When I saw this performance I was  producing the Russian futurist piece with the Stekelbees Theatre group (who were soon after to be known as Victoria).  Dirk Pauwels, the director, joined the director of the 'Love Theatre' in the cafe of the theatre, who he invited to come back and produce a theatre work for Stekelbees/Victoria.  Considering how the theatre piece itself stood against everything particularly 'European' about theatre, his saying 'yes' to do something with a group of Belgians in a small city would not really make sense.  He scoffed, and Pauwels was offended (probably not really knowing why).






May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)*
Send mail to zachar@nachtschimmen.eu with questions or comments about this website.

September 27 2013.



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