Meg Stuart
Damaged Goods
Jozef Wouters/Decoratelier
MOUVEMENT, Chasseur de Palimpsestes, Lauriane Schulz [ French ]
Tip Berlin, Die Aura-Jägerin, Arnd Wesemann [ German ]
INFERNO, Hunter: Meg Stuart, Smaranda Olcèse [ French ]
The Irish Times, Built to Last, Michael Seaver
The Irish Times, Built to Last, Michael Seaver (review)
Examinor, Built to Last, Chris O'Rourke
NRZ, Choreographie der Körpererkundung, Michael-Georg Müller (22.09.2015) [ German ]
Deutschlandradio Kultur, Das Ende einer Ära, Christoph Liebold (18.06.2015) [ German ]
Deutsche Bühne, Unbequeme Zügellosigkeit, Vesta Mlaker (20.06.2015) [ German ]
NRZ Der Westen, Choreography of the exploration of the body, Michael-Georg Müller (22.09.2015)
DE MORGEN, Dancing beyond embarrassment - Pieter T'Jonck

Until Our Hearts Stop marks a fresh step in the research that the choreographer Meg Stuart has been engaged in for more than two decades. She tirelessly attempts to pin down the strange interplay between what we feel physically and what we experience mentally, and in so doing, she rarely leaves the viewer unmoved.

This research departs ever further from the shape of a classic ‘performance’. More and more, it is about experiments in which not only the performers, but also the spectators have a role to play. She regularly confronts viewers head on with the inherent difficulties of the human condition, which can leave them confused.

In Highway 101 (2000-2002), for example, she dragged the spectators through a building, before unexpectedly abandoning them to weirdos who went on to indulge in some embarrassing rants. People often had no idea how to behave. All Together Now (2005) tore up theatrical conventions still further. It began with the audience being packed into a space that was far too small, while a voice expressed disgust at the ensuing sweat and odours. It ended with a feel-good session in which everyone was entreated to hold hands. Some felt that they could have died of embarrassment.

But as ever, this is precisely her point: why do we hate it so much when other people come too close to us? Why do we long for others, yet bolt if someone comes closer? What can we tolereate from one another, and what not? This is endlessly fascinating to watch, as Stuart always manages to find fresh ways of exploring this theme, and never fails to unsettle.

The same is true of her new work UNTIL OUR HEARTS STOP. The piece wrong-foots you to such as extent that at a certain point half way through, you barely know whether you are coming or going. To the overpowering jazzy sounds of the trio Samuel Halscheidt, Marc Lohr and Stefan Rusconi, the six performers have already groped, stalked and made use of one another in every conceivable way.

It all begins with a strange yoga session, followed by an equally strange acrobatics exercise. After this, all six performers plonk themselves down on a sofa together. Whether out of boredom or embarrassment, they pick at one another until they are rolling over the floor in a knot of bodies. Two men become embroiled in a dogfight. Two women separate them, before immediately going on to attack one another with equal savagery - and stark naked - before winding up in an intimate embrace.

The fourth wall is breached
An hour of these edgy, absurd scenes culminates in a synchronous dance comprised of incomprehensible signals. Just as you have almost given up trying to understand it, the mood shifts. The spectators are suddenly involved in the action, whether they like it or not. The performers offer drinks and presents, sing birthday songs or stage a variety show. In the meantime, Kristof Van Boven may act as though he has been imprisoned behind glass, but the ‘fourth wall’ between the viewer and the performer has clearly been broken down.

The performance then takes a magical turn, both literally and figuratively, with conjuring tricks and a mysterious ritual involving incense and a drum roll. However, the mood is abruptly broken by the heartrending speech of a lone woman who endlessly begs for attention and love for her pitiful self. This is reminiscent of the weird, embarrassing figures that appeared in Highway 101.

Although you are aware that this is only theatre, it still makes you uncomfortable: with this scene, Meg Stuart holds up a mirror to us all. She illustrates how desperately we long for contact and attention, until our hearts stop. But you are left alone with that uncomfortable feeling, because the performance ends here. Until such time as Stuart comes to knit another chapter onto this endless tale.

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