Comme un symbole (forme courte)

Cie Al-Fa / Alexandre Fandard

Something is up. There’s a commotion in the audience. Someone is howling. And so Comme un symbole (forme courte) by Cie Al-Fa starts. A man runs onstage, setting off a cinematic soundscape-driven solo seeping in monumental gestures, arms raised to the heavens, lights from the top to shadow his face, pathos abounding. But he’s not dressed in a cassock, nor does he wear Caesar’s laurels, but rather a baseball cap and baggy trousers. A dark, at times shrill hum drowns out the excessive trumpets, the fist fights into the air.

Never leaving his circle of light, aimlessly punching into the black, gyrating with shaking hands, he manages his theatricality with a genuine simplicity that softens the cringe effect of a first reading. A fragility and void emerge, unexpectedly helped by demonstration chants coming in from the streets. Symbolic it was, yet when he concluded his show with a phoneticised rendition of ‘Der Leiermann’ from Schubert’s Winterreise, the tragedy curiously didn’t induce any empathy in me.

Lea Pischke

Alexandre Fandard’s self-created solo commences with pre-show offstage shouts, an alert aptly augmented during the performance by sounds of a May Day street march passing by the venue. The young urban male Fandard embodies is angry, probably alienated but, as we eventually see, also vulnerable. Anonymised under visored cap, and wearing a jacket sporting the French flag, his aggressive, troubled and inarticulate protagonist initially rails physically to a crackling, tingling and distortedly beaty soundscape. His turning upstage, one arm raised with an index finger pointing upward, seems a crucial moment – as if to say, ‘Recognise me!’

More rippling, echoic percussion, with a bit of choral singing woven in, accompanies the wiry Fandard’s head-lolling, wrist-flapping rotations in a pool of low light. He gulps for breath, doffs jacket and singlet and, after unblocking his throat, sings a moving a cappella rendition of one of Schubert’s songs from Winterreise. This uncloyingly humble and finely vocalised finale, unexpected yet somehow fitting, arrives like a soul-baring balm.

Donald Hutera

The audience’s lively chatter is interrupted by an aggressive shout. We look round yet can’t locate the perpetrator. Once it happens again it becomes clear that this is an unwelcome call for attention, and a fair introduction to Alexandre Fandard’s political solo. Recorded city noise and streetlamp-like lighting suggest a run-down suburb. Fandard moves frantically in this imagined setting, swallowing words he can’t find a way to say out loud. His struggle with expression will partially resolve itself by the singing of Schubert’s Der Leiermann – a tale of an old musician people walk past without noticing.

Comme un symbole is a work of dance-theatre that seeks to give a voice to overlooked and marginalised men in our societies and dismantle the dehumanised image forced upon them. And yet the figure of the anger-driven man failed to evoke empathy within me. 

Plamen Harmandjiev

An unseen aggressor’s roar pierces through the audience’s chatter. Apparently the crowd can only be silenced by David Lynch-like music. Will a crime be detected? A tall man, cap covering his eyes as if not wishing to be recognised, emerges from darkness and gestures provokingly towards an invisible opponent in the wings – like a violence-hungry hooligan. But suddenly his neck vertebrae seem to stop their support, his head dangling dangerously. More ambiguous bodily transformations follow. Is this perceived menace not, in fact, a victim? Rodrig de Sa’s soundscape propels us through rapid percussion and choral song, leaving me mystified yet thrilled and eager to find the key to unlock what this is all about. Alexandre Fandard, who created and performs this enigmatic solo, takes off cap and jacket, the latter adorned with a French flag, and, shirtless now, sings Schubert’s Der Leiermann. This work’s highly political and class-critical message was a tricky one to unveil, but so are the omnipresent power structures that Fandard’s piece so strikingly aims to pin to the wall.

Berit Einemo Frøysland