Tauberbach © Les Ballets C de la B
Tauberbach
© Les Ballets C de la B
Les Ballets C de la B company had a conversation, through movement, sounds, gestures and facial expressions on the Sadler's Wells stage, which was decorated with mountains of clothing, giving the impression of a rubbish dump. The tenets of nihilism are at the center of Alain Platel's Tauberbach, whose theatrical absurdity slowly made sense. The premise: the over indulgent human race has many material possessions yet still is unsatisfied. With 21 classical music soundscapes and quotes from the documentary Estamira by Marcos Prado, the choreography was unique and the structuring of the work was an intellectual masterpiece.

Although the entire show was provoking, I had doubts about the first half; it felt slow (movement wise) but that is not to say that there wasn't plenty to see or process. The stage, a daring landscape made out of hills of clothing, left me thinking – where are they going to dance? I am assuming the costume designer, Teresa Vergho, went to charity shops and other recycled clothing outlets to hunt for those basic items. The overabundant set framed the dancers' yogic positions and slow steps beautifully. With such a heavy concept being discussed through movement, I suppose there needed to be limited movement to allow the audience spaces to breathe.

Tauberbach © Les Ballets C de la B
Tauberbach
© Les Ballets C de la B

Through her irrational gestures, one quickly deciphered that the central character, Elsie de Brauw, had mental health issues and a rather unconventional way of interacting with the world. Underneath the grumbles and yelling, she actually had a lot to say and perhaps saw the world clearer than most of us do. With tousled hair and a bit of Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch energy and look, she was always having a whinge about something. With her raspy voice and incredibly sour expression, she talked at us throughout the work into one of the four microphones dangling on stage. You couldn't quite make out if she was speaking Portuguese, Italian, German, or maybe a combination of all. What was clear during one of her rants was the highly-charged phrase “There is no shortage of food”, but according to Platel, the world is still starving.

Tauberbach © Les Ballets C de la B
Tauberbach
© Les Ballets C de la B

Hungry for more, it was a joy to watch Rameu Runa, who moved like a contortionist, hitting yoga postures with an animal like quality and aggression. His solos were slow and controlled – a contrast to de Brauw's lunatic character – and they felt like he moved from an internal place. There were short duets happening upstage, and might I say there was plenty to see. Beams moving up slowly and dancers jumping off of them, dangling bodies with derrières showing or couples rolling in the clothing. Ross McCormack was hilarious with his impersonation of a soldier in combat by taking a green material and turning it into a missile, gun, and grenade. Sections of the work were marked by blackouts and singing. The melodies and chants, reminiscent of a church choir, were markers of hope, but only for an instant. Although one wanted to feel optimistic, Tauberbach was a story that started and ended with a nihilistic outlook.

Tauberbach © Les Ballets C de la B
Tauberbach
© Les Ballets C de la B

This show was a successful explosion of thought-provoking ideas and profound imagery. Nudity was used but not for shock value. There were plenty of moments when dancers would find their way towards each other and yank at their knickers to either take a sneak peak or stare at the male's “package” for an uncomfortable amount of time. One hot and heavy scene simulated intercourse on stage – with moans, deep breathing, licking, rubbing and grabbing. Morals were ignored and an impulse to enjoy fantasies were depicted throughout the work.

Alain Platel's Tauberbach is a show that challenges all norms and pushes you to rethink. They come at you in a strong and unorthodox manner; you don't want to miss Les Ballets C de la B.