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It’s Going to Get Worse and Worse and Worse, My Friend.

Lisbeth Gruwez | Voetvolk

It’s Going to Get Worse and Worse and Worse, My friend

 

A Witness To The Movement

 

Right from the start, this performance was moving, without really moving much at all. A rainy Friday night spent at the ScotiaBank Dance Centre signified a very different kind of performance experience.

Right from the start, Lisbeth Gruwez was undeniable. She was the one sole who assumed a position on stage that night for It’s Going to Get Worse and Worse and Worse, My friend. Beaming, in pristine black patent shoes, her body was erect and confronting. She stood in the front quarter of a rectangle of light drawn on stage. She looked at the audience expectantly, as something palpable hung in the air. A prickly alertness grew the longer she stood. With the same effect as a long pause in speech, the lack of movement was most provoking because she turned the attention back on the audience. Her stance was still, but charged with energy that seemed to cycle through her body. The sheer mite surged up her legs, lifting her kneecaps, pushing up her chest and tipping her chin. As she looked coolly out at the audience she let the energy pour back down her shoulders and along her rigid backbone. She contained her energy, holding her power until the audience was ready to receive it.

As she began to move sparingly, calculated, a gestural quality emerged. The movements were decidedly direct, clean, clear and definite. The forward orientation and a repetitious return to a lifted, held posture allowed these movements to be received individually but to emit from, and return to, the same place. These were not gestures. They were not recognizable and could not be linked to any word or phrase. Gruwez’s movements were gestures in the sense that each movement could be understood on it’s own. Each had an individual impulse and was fulfilled separately. Similarly, the music throughout the length of the show compiled the smithereens of a sentence, assembling and reorganizing it until it made sense as language. Even fragmented, the movement reinforced the ideas of that very first image on stage, constantly returning to that invincible stance.

Like a gesture, the movement was telling. Devised live, by Maarten Van Cauwenberghe, the audio track slowly revealed snippets, sounds, fragmented words and eventually full phrases plucked from a speech by American televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. The movement collided in time with these sounds, but as they became words, the coinciding motion was not exactly derived from the word’s meaning. The move that corresponded with the word “advancement” was aggressive, but ironic because with all the force that she threw forward, jabbing flat wrists and fingers forward, she was actually moving backward. It was with this contradiction that I considered the difference between what the audience was seeing and what she was doing. When Gruwez moved, her body could be heard viscerally, and each move read like words of a different language. When her stance started to change the movement that came out of it was altered. Exhaustion was apparent as she no longer reigned in her energy, she threw it all out towards the audience until she finally lowered to her knees and descended to the ground. A new kind of, empty, stillness consumed the stage.

From the moment Gruwez stepped on stage assuming that stance with a subtle smirk, I saw a dictator. Considering the audience that Friday night, and the spectators of leaders Gruwez was channeling, the similarities were chilling. It seemed as though instead of simply showing an embodiment of the dictators she had researched, she replicated the experience. With similar tactics and theatrics, she used her body to convince her audience of who she was. The audio recordings had ceased with the movement and as she laid on the stage motionless, the theatre was silent. The absence of any shuffling, coughing or creaking of seats not only indicated the audiences respect for the tender moment, but most importantly their full attention.

The complex audio track, the spatial design, lighting and costuming created a very specific environment, one where Gruwez, and everything she did, was most effective and convincing. Leaving the audience with the image of Gruwez repeatedly, tirelessly, jumping high into the air certainly instills at least a sense of awe, if not arousing conviction she may be super-human and capable of great feats. To successfully orchestrate the elements that focus a number of people on one thing, collectively, is a true science. The performance qualities of leadership that make up this science are more convincing and even more prevalent than we realize, differed only by intention. Swaggarts words are integral to this performance but almost as a catalyst for the experience. Taken out of context the words lose power and being further rearranged and repeated the eccentricity is highlighted. Against this disembodied voice, Gruwez appears as the truth.

Right from the start, measures are taken to zero-in on Gruwez, to focus all of the attention on her so as to witness her confidence, strength and determination. From this, I would follow Lisbeth Gruwez into anything.

 

It’s Going to Get Worse and Worse and Worse, My friend is currently being presented by Theatre Junction Grand http://www.theatrejunction.com/events-shows-new-season/