MAIDS TO ORDER
by Donald Hutera
Based on Jean Genet’s 1946 play, the essentially text-free dance-theatre co-production The Maids premiered at Theaterhaus Stuttgart last year. It’s a chamber piece, but its collaborators’ origins lend it global scope.
Although born in São Paulo, Ismael Ivo is something of a pop star in his resident Germany. Ivo has dramatic leanings: not long ago he and fellow Brazilian expatriate Marcia Haydée worked on a scaled-down, intensified two-person version of Tristan and Isolde. Here he’s paired with Koffi Kôkô, a West African dancer-choreographer who lives in Paris. Casting them as Genet’s maids is no extreme gender switch, given the author’s repeated romanticisation of homosexuality. Director Yoshi Oida, had the inspired idea to also source Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour, a short, silent film about two criminals in adjoining cells.
The performance opens with Ivo and Kôkô as prisoners separated by invisible walls; these are suggested by Lutz Deppe’s lighting, the performers’ physical skill and our (and their) willing imagination. The setting subsequently melts back and forth between the prison and the attic room they once shared when employed as servants. The latter is another kind of incarceration, marked by class divisions but also their own dangerously symbiotic psychology.
The men perform with commanding concentration and sweat-drenched attention to expressive detail. Both are magnificently aware of their lean, long-limbed, muscular bodies. Their femininity comes to the fore in deeper ways than just the capering games and coquettish preening with which they use hats and fabric wraps. Kôkô offers opportunities, Ivo runs with them. Within those broad character outlines runs a complex, tangled relationship based on currents of submission and power, desire and fear. These are two people who can get neither too close, nor far enough apart. Sulking and fighting are the flip-sides of pleasure and play. A desperately needy embrace can turn into a clinging trap. Little wonder that at one point they try to tear off each other’s faces.
The piece is more quartet than two-hander. Turkish dancer Ziya Azazi is double-cast as masturbatory prison guard and an effusively drunk, demanding employer. In the latter guise he vamps and camps with tyrannical, athletic energy. Onstage musician Joao de Bruco exerts an active, even exotic presence. His large instruments are unusual: a percussive mobile, thin miked metal rods connected to cannisters, suspended bowls harbouring rattling beads. He uses these, a keyboard and his voice (guttural gibberish or growl) to comment and spur on the action.
Kazuko Watanabe’s designs are admirably spare: two low, hard beds, plus some colourful props and bits of costuming to offset the predominant grey tones. This Maids is never less than intriguing and the first five or ten minutes might rank as one of the most sexually charged moments you’re likely to see in a theatre this year.
[This edited review is reprinted with the kind permission of Dance Europe.]
WHO: ISMAEL IVO / KOFFI KOKO / YOSHI OIDA
WHAT: THE MAIDS
WHEN: TUE 15 - SAT 19 OCT
WHERE: BARBICAN: THE PIT
ON SALE: NOW! £12
TICKETS: 020 7638 8891
<small>[ 09-09-2002, 01:22: Message edited by: Donald Hutera ]</small>
This interview was posted by Stuart Sweeney on behalf of Donald Hutera and first appeared in Dance Umbrella News.
Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook.
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