Man of a Thousand Faces
The line between choreographer and theatre director blurs to the point of vanishing in the suggestively titled “Singspiele,” choreographed, or directed if you prefer, by French choreographer Maguy Marin. A one-man theatrical performance, “Singspiele,” a name borrowed from a genre of opera, might arguably be dance in concept only. This hybrid approach, by Marin, is one which claims to be about ‘hearing the stories held behind mute faces and acknowledging our primal need to be recognised.’ A description that sells this deeply philosophical work short, and is itself open for debate. For in “Singspiele,” self is always simulation, an artifice in the tradition of Baudrillard, one which asks if our expressions truly give expression to self-expression, or are we always condemned to be costumed clichés?
On Benjamin Lebreton’s clever set design, suggestive of a railway platform awash in the sounds of trains and traffic, performer, David Mambouch, cleverly shifts between sheets of black and white, paper face masks, and a wide-ranging wardrobe hung at three points on the wall. If communication is indeed eighty percent non-verbal, then Mambouch resides firmly in that eighty percent where silence is golden, clothes do indeed make the man, or woman, and the eyes most certainly have it. Utilising masks and costumes informed by gestures and subtle shifts in body language, “Singspiele” deals more in snapshots than stories, where Churchill and Johnny Cash, Bette Davis and Stan Laurel, each make an appearance, along with a cast of other well known, lesser known and unknown faces. Over the duration of the hour Mambouch swaps costumes and faces endlessly, moving slowly across the stage, littering the space with discarded selves, or simulations of selves, as he moves onto the next. At times brilliantly realised, “Singspiele” offers some wonderful moments of ingenuity and insight: a pair of high heels transforming a male business suit, a red negligee transformed by the face of a young girl, Stan Laurel still garnering laughs today. But the whole soon feels like a one trick pony. Like a classic song remixed and extended well past what’s interesting and listenable, “Singspiele's” invention, though excellent in places, is not inventive or imaginative enough to sustain prolonged engagement, with interest waning at times, not helped by its meticulously slow pacing.
Feeling at times like a sketch stretched into a show, “Singspiele” is still a costume designer’s delight, highlighting the power clothes, expression and gesture hold in communicating, or simulating, who we are, or the who we want you to think we are. If its austerity and repetition deprives it of sufficient scope and depth, “Singspiele’s” flipbook of costumed humanity is one which is often beautifully realised, with moments of ingenuity and insight, and a wonderfully articulate, and articulated, performance by Mambouch.
“Singspiele” by Maguy Marin, performed by David Mambouch, runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2017 until May 25th
For more information, visit Project Arts Centre or Dublin Dance Festival