Josef Nadj

'Le Temps Du Repli'

by Katie Phillips

October 7, 2003 -- Robin Howard Dance Theatre, London


Love is perhaps learning to walk in this world.
Learning to keep ourselves quiet like the oak and the lime tree of the fable.
Learning to watch.
Your regard is like the sower.
He has planted a tree.
I speak because you make the leaves tremble.

Within the context of Dance Umbrella, and the stunning aesthetic pleasures of companies such as Michael Clarke and Trisha Brown, it is both stimulating and refreshing to be challenged by a performance practitioner with renown on the International Mime scene, and a history of circus and theatre work.

This performance embraces a highly theatrical array of elements including dance, mime, and physical theatre, set to a Vladimir Tarasov’s atonal percussion score. The characters could have been plucked from a Beckett cast, but instead of waiting for Godot it seems that these two are waiting for – well, it’s anyone’s guess really.

Josef Nadj and Cecile Thieblemont perform with a robust physicality facially, vocally and bodily; their eyes and hands full of alert and intriguing expressionism. The stage is full of props that reflect their cluttered emotions, in particular humour and pathos. There are some poignant moments. They give a glimpse of the way we want to behave in certain situations – often satirical, often humorous, and sometimes a bit spooky.

“Le Temps du Repli” is redolent of The Theatre of the Absurd, a 1950s French school of thought stemming from existentialism, an anti-religious philosophy postulating that there is no divine controlling force or predetermined influence, but rather that life is random and absurd and determined by the self. The only way to deal with life is to live through it/play it out despite the utmost absurdity. On stage, life is reduced to nothing but a collection of random thoughts and absurd events, which strike a chord with the viewer – we recognise odd moments that crop up and cause us to reflect on our own lives.

Certainly, in “Le Temps Du Repli”, there is the sense that every single movement, sound and gesture is open to significant meaning and can be interpreted in many different ways. Perhaps we agree that sometimes, the only way to express something is by biting a chair or smelling a table. Striking mental images remain of Nadj picking up Thieblemont who has frozen into a rigid plank, their grotesque tears shed for a staff, and the smashing of a white vase containing a dead bird. Captivating and inexplicable moments abound, things seem other than what they really are and every one’s interpretation will be different.

It’s a good one to get your teeth in to and it certainly gets a good audience reception. You will enjoy it, but you won’t be quite sure why. And that’s the hole point. Isn’t it?


Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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