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Report: Avignon festival

Needcompany brings catharsis to market at Avignon Festival


No newcomers to Avignon, Jan Lauwers and his Needcompany from Belgium, perform another of their good-to-be-alive-in-an-imperfect-world plays, or rather operettas.


Music and song along with more than a sprinkling of comedy (often dark) are ingredients in Needcompany's balm to be applied for the difficulties of being a human being.

Lauwers plays the master of ceremonies - and the guitar - in a fitting costume, that of a band leader, taking us season by season from death to rebirth in the Carmes cloisters.

His composition is dramatically, aesthetically and acoustically similar to his previous performances, Isabella’s Room (2004), The Lobster Bazaar (2006) and The Deer’s House (2008).

This time it’s the bazaar again - or rather the market place.

Le Place du Marché 76 takes place in the heart of a village community.

Needcompany spins a tragic tale out of an accidental gas explosion in which most of the villagers’ children were killed. The butcher’s wife, who caused the accident, has lost not only her child but also the use of her lower body.

However, the main issue for Lauwers in this play is how people can get along with each other, live side by side and accept the different ways of others.

Today, he notes, society is multi-cultural in some parts of the world, like many places in Europe, and the customs, traditions, religion and other fibres of the social fabric are less strong, less present.

To get the message across, South Korean, Sung-Im Her plays Kim-Ho, the child-molesting plumber’s wife and Japanese Yumiko Funaya, their daughter, Michele.

Other theatre vehicles, which take the audience through the transition of the villagers from grieving to resentment to bitter to revenge to realisation to rebirth include one very simple visual.

It’s a gradual change of costume from black to bright orange, which shows the characters coming out, one by one, on the other side of their cathartic experience. In the structure, the seasons of the year simply denote the traditional romantic associations. So, a poignant act of love as assisted suicide in winter, and in spring life begins again, from a new and mixed source. Love is the way, hopes Lauwers.

Needcompany has the talent for making their work – acting, singing, dancing, puppetry - look effortless, as if it were merely a group of people playing with words and ideas and objects who have landed up on a stage somewhere and are telling a story. As one of the characters is always telling the story, it seems effortless for the audience as well.

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