We enter the stage from the side. Musician Frank Rosaly welcomes us with a hypnotic improvisation on his drumset and we take our places on the stands behind him, facing the auditorium but separated from it by a stretched-out cloth covering the whole proscenium. Seven performers – male, dressed in grey suits and ties – join Rosaly and form a vertical line in front of us. As in a synchronised-swimming routine, they fall flat on their hands in a tight canon, do a push-up, and circle around to start the next collective move.
Choreographer Nicole Beutler sets out to explore the concept of ‘manhood’ and engage in a journey of transformation. The eight performers draw well-timed patterns in space, lie on the floor connected to one another emulating the prints of MC Escher, then gather to sing Purcell’s challenging aria ‘The Cold Song’ while striking several manly poses. Though their quest is slightly ironic, they all step out of their comfort zone, and the vulnerability this entails is endearing.
Master lighting designer Minna Tiikkainen – also known for her outstanding work with Jefta van Dinther – makes clever use of our position on stage, at times illuminating it from such a height that we feel as if we are in the depths of a cave, the show a shared journey to find a way out.
At last, the cloth rises to reveal an equally evocative landscape. The red chairs are covered in mist and in the back an orange glow-light plays a rising sun. Right in front of it, a fragile tree celebrates a new beginning. Stripped to their underwear, the eight men leave the stage to change into surreal costumes – but the staggered timing of this rebirth partially kills the magic. When they finally descend into the auditorium, the memory of what we have been working on for the last hour doesn’t travel with them. A shame, really, for I’d gladly have gone with them until the end.