A disparate group of people mill about a bare, liminal space bathed with pulsing light. The blind seer Said (Said Gharbi) muses on how God created us to play with us. The tiny martial artist Yun (Yun Liu) executes beautiful tumbling katas, only to be repeatedly killed by the strapping Flavio (Flavio D’Andrea), who breaks down and cries each time before Yun miraculously revives and the cycle continues. A mother (Anabel Lopez) frets about her absent son. And in the middle of all this, a body falls from the ceiling.
Such is the strange sci-fi world of Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez’s latest show, a devised piece of dance-theatre that tries to explore the nature of faith and religion, but ends up about as awkward and unwieldy as its title.
Wouter (Wouter Bruneel), the reanimated corpse, large belly protruding from his orange jumpsuit, is bewildered by his arrival in this place. On Earth – now devastated and referred to as Anarchaos – he was a psychologist, so in between lashing out at and/or lusting after the others, he offers an ad hoc kind of therapy. The polyglot, multicultural crowd believe they have been chosen by a Saviour – the son that Anabel is constantly worried about – and they alternate between hope and despair.
There’s a lot of angry shouting, a bit of insult-flinging, some ecstatic, percussion-driven group dancing (in one instance fuelled by the performers flagellating themselves with rubber mats) and clear references to religion – a Mary figure, an Adam and Eve, resurrections, a silhouetted Doubting Thomas tableau. What’s lacking, despite the collaboration of the author and theatre director Bart Meulemann on the text, is much cohesiveness to the narrative. In its present form, it feels unedited to the point of self-indulgence.
Disappointingly, given that this is Vandekeybus, creator of such iconic works as What the Body Does Not Remember, there’s also not really that much dance. We must be satisfied with Liu’s fluid kung fu and gracefully acrobatic duets with D’Andrea, and Maria Kolegova’s fragmented hunched movement and marvellously grotesque contortions as she relates the outlandish story of her many marriages.
By the time the performers are climbing through the audience, announcing to us that we are now the chosen ones, you feel something has definitely been lost in translation.