FLARE17: Grand Applause

Imagine a modern art gallery where instead of wandering the rooms, you sit in one place and the rooms are brought to you.  Then imagine that everything you see is themed on the opera Carmen, each room representing one of four key scenes in the opera.  Three artists contribute, in turn creating the roles of Carmen, Don José and the bullfighter Escamillo.  Live art is performed by Jorge Dutor and Guillem Mont de Palol wearing artworks ‘Two Overalls for Performance 2016’.

As with modern art it’s not necessary to understand what you see to feel deeply about the pieces.  Perhaps if you know the opera Carmen then individual scenes will resonate more significantly.  But then again there is an excellent guide to accompany the performance that explains each artwork, its position on stage and a brief synopsis of the specific scene.  The booklet has a stylish translucent glassine cover; everything about this production is beautiful and has been carefully chosen.

Half the fun of Grand Applause is trying to work out what is going on.  It starts very slowly with the opera playing to a closed curtain for what feels like a long time.  Then we open onto a bare white stage.  A procession of boxes and packaging materials moves across the stage and a large inflatable bubble made from sheets of ‘painter plastic’ taped together expands to fill the stage.  It’s not until Room 2 that the two Spanish performers appear, rolling back and forth slightly out of sync, slamming pieces of wood against the floor.  The powerful chorus is provided by the choir of ghosts who appear wearing ‘vinyl over Tyvek, sunglasses’.  In Room 3, there is a wonderful examination of the fragility and impermanence of life and relationships as the two performers attempt to construct improvised sculptures from sheets of wood and plastic, and cardboard tubes.

As with modern art, there are times when you wonder what on earth is going on.  At other times you engage deeply and get it.  Throughout, the performers present a performance that sits between a living artwork and a contemporary theatrical reinterpretation of Carmen.  I’ve never seen anything like it, but it’s completely brilliant and utterly memorable.

This performance was at Contact, Manchester, 5 July 2017 as part of FLARE 17.  To see more about FLARE17, visit their site here and read my interview here.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

One Response to “FLARE17: Grand Applause”

  1. Amanda says:

    Gutted I missed this.

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