Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Artist: Les Ballets C. de la B
Venue:The Tramway, Glasgow, Friday 18th May 2007

Week 3 of Tramway's May Events, and a return of Les Ballets C. de la B., this time Koen Augustijnen's Import/Export. This time the stage is comprised of packing cases. Ideas of transportation, of smuggling, of people made vulnerable. The opening scene has the six performers sat on the floor - Lazara Rosell Albear, Marie Bauer, Juan Benitez, Gael Santisteva, Milan Szypura and Koen Augustijnen - rocking back and forward to the sound of the ocean. We have the idea of these people from all around the world, huddled together, sliding around with the movements of the container that they are hidden within.

Over the hour and a half that follows, these 6 people play through a number of roles, express a range of vulnerabilities. The most basic of those is that of the relationship, mock caresses turn to mock violence, the see-saw ride of turmoil, of how something can turn threatening so easily. Throughout the performance, there is an under current of threat, Augustijnen himself often being the one who turns the mood, who leads the pack when it turns nasty.

The guy on crutches struggles to stand is pushed to the ground by Koen, and a malicious struggle takes place. Marie is having a good time, till she loses her shoes, and when she tries to retrieve them she is confronted by Lazara, who leads the rest against her - she is thrown about, manhandled, tossed into the air, fear across her face as she seeks an exit. The performance progresses and the tables are turned, Lazara is a vulnerable woman confronted by Koen, who makes her strip - confrontational and authoritarian. At times there is comedy, one of the men lists off a series of things that he doesn't like, the last in the list inevitably being people who are negative. The rest of the group try and encourage him, pick him when he falls, carry him on their shoulders, in an uplifting and positive manner. Followed by a section where they line up in front of the audience and try and one-up each other in their slapstick positive/negative fashion.

Live music is performed throughout the evening by the Kirke String Quartet - Eva Vermeeren, Saartje De Muynck, Evelien Vandeweerdt and Herlinde Verheyden - two violins, a viola and cello. Accompanied by the Altus singer Steve Dugardin, who joins the musicians and the performers as appropriate, crossing the boundaries. Though the four girls get up and join the rest on stage for a couple of big ensemble pieces. The live baroque elements are contrasted stage by stage by an atmospheric electronic soundtrack as well, which ranges from ambient, environmental through to club sounds and hard beats.

There seem to be strong parallels between VSPRS and Import/Export, both expressing vulnerabilities, and involuntary experiences. Though while VSPRS is a mental reaction, Import/Export is more about the physical reaction. Both are emotional, parts of VSPRS reflects religious/sexual ecstasy, while the emotions of Import/Export are more about vulnerability, a sense of people closing in and taking over. With a total on stage presence of 11 people, Import/Export is less chaotic than VSPRS - though even compared to the duo that performed Mysteries Of Love, this feels like a more understated piece. But still the acrobatics are impressive and the energy of the piece is infectious. While I mostly tuned the voice out, the combination of classical music with electronic went well with the performance. And the stage set up contributed well to the mood of the piece, the set closer to the audience, so that people could be seen to be lurking behind it, spaces for people to hide, all adding to the uncertainty and undertones of the piece.

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