A human body enters the space. The head is covered by a large box. Is it a woman or a man? In HOME, it doesn’t matter. This performer doesn’t tie human identity to a specific gender.
The main protagonist here is the body. The stage becomes a platform to present all its skills, limits and possibilities. The German artist S. Abarbanell tests them by moving each limb – slowly, smoothly, fluidly at first. Later, the performer shows another side, working at maximum speed and force – jumping, shifting from one foot to another with pulsating power, driven by energetic techno raves.
Since Abarbanell is dressed only in flesh-coloured underwear, and later naked, every single muscle is displayed. While HOME pays a personal tribute to the body, its human, emotional dimension is missing. As a result, the piece struggles to move its audience.
Sebastian Abarbanell’s solo is bolstered by cross-disciplinary collaborations that have generated an impressive multimedia spectacle. Projection, set, costume and sound harmonise with Abarbanell’s looming stature. The effect is a beige-washed Surrealist tableau through which our performer weaves at a snail’s pace. They fold inside a hollow box like flatpack furniture. Shimmy in and immediately out of a chainmail robe. Claim then abandon, like a hermit crab desperately scavenging for a suitable shell to call HOME.
Abarbanell has a nuanced understanding of their body that allows them to reach extreme physicalities. Pulsating to techno, loose limbs flail and bounce in all directions. In another, more vulnerable moment, they become a nude monolith, contorting into severe shapes.
The only relationship that falls by the wayside is that between performer and spectator. When the lights came up, I felt more hollow box than human being. There’s not enough tangible emotion to extract, leaving us disconnected from Abarbanell and each other. Without this unity, HOME risks polarising its audience – arthouse marmite.
Detached, statuesque, a white body crosses the stage, its head hidden under a large box. Soon enough, the choreographer and performer, Sebastian Abarbanell, folds themselves into and around said box. It is a slow process – each gesture so smooth and deliberate that Abarbanell might as well be playing a cyborg, working out the foreign mechanics of the human form.
HOME is an odd title for this chilly solo, which is reportedly about finding one’s identity. Halfway through, the dull score – think ambient noise from outer space – shifts to a heavy electronic beat, and Abarbanell leaves for an unexplained pause. They then proceed to take off their flesh-coloured underwear, crouch and curl into a ball of sculpted muscles, ultimately walking into a red spotlight. It’s a revealing solo from a physical perspective, and much craft clearly went into it, but to me, this particular HOME isn’t where the heart is.