FLARE17: Sprachspiel

Sprachspiel by L’hommmm/Mats Van Herreweghe and Geert Belpaeme (Belgium)

FLARE17 arrives at the Royal Exchange with Sprachspiel.

Sprachspiel is a performance on the line between art and philosophical experiment. Showing how communication emerges out of play, not out of understanding, the performance was inspired by Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that language does not need clear-cut concepts or unambiguous signifiers.

Two men crouch on opposite sides of a low white plinth 2m by 1m.  At first they make small movements with their hands. It’s somewhere between a child’s game and the plotting of a dance. Are there rules or are they working these out as they go along? As the interaction progresses it feels like a complex game of rock-paper-scissors with thousands of options and a complex hierarchy of movement.

At times the responses mirror each other and appear to offer support. Then, it feels competitive, as if one is searching for a way to beat the other.  It’s a classic support/compete pairing that permeates so much work on masculinity.

The piece develops well, becoming more physical until both are standing.  The previously tiny movements mean that the two performers now appear as giants, teetering on one another’s backs, or balancing on the upturned edge of the plinth.  The intricate interactions that are the basis of communication have been absorbed into something we recognise more clearly as everyday behaviour.  A fascinating piece, strangely mesmerising and challenging.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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