Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Under the Radar Festival: Once and For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen

The first time the thirteen teenagers of Once and For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen come on stage, it's a spontaneous burst of energy. Two boys flick each other with balloons; two girls splash, spit, and pour water on one another; a boy and a girl get a little romantic while tangled up in a garbage bag; a skateboard flies by--also, a scooter; a tower of cups is stacked and smashed; chairs go flying--kids do, too. The sheer volume of things happening--to say nothing of the actual volume, particularly when there's mood-setting music playing--perfectly represents the overwhelming task Alexander Devriendt has given to his cast: to express the inexpressible.

The task is made more difficult considering the mantra of the show's few monologues: "I'm afraid that I will do the same like everyone else before me." If being young is about breaking the rules, pushing the boundaries, and exploring possibilities, how can that be done on stage? (And this Belgian cast has been performing this show, on tour, for the last three years.) The secret, apparently, is in the style, which I'll call "anarchchic." At the heart of the play is that opening five-minute scene, developed through the spontaneity of the cast: anarchic. But each subsequent scene repeats and tweaks that moment, using the rebellious music of various generations (modern techno, but also Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?"), tres chic.

The exuberant joy--and, to be fair, awkward frustrations--of the following "scenes" is in seeing how the cast copes with the loose structures being applied to their originally original performance. One version is stripped down to the stage directions; another is done with only props, the cast conspicuously absent--and sorely missed. There are slowed down versions, and sped up versions; more violent ones, more romantic ones. (The cast "rebels" against the director, wishing to stay with this "newly discovered" thing called love.) The finale, waving a giant middle finger to those who don't get it, grossly exaggerates the scale of everything performed so far. Limits exist, you see, only when we stop pushing--so please, push.

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