The best way to describe Ligia LewisWater Will (in Melody) is as a gory fairy tale on human behaviours gone wild to which a pinch of theatrical apparatus deconstruction has been added. An HAU am Hebel’s production with a long list of co-production partners in the German-speaking countries and the USA, the piece presents an extremely sombre and at time violent atmosphere populated of slapstick figures transported from a dystopian showbiz sequence to a dripping cavern. Raw and direct, disturbingly grotesque, suddenly beautifully poetic and unwittingly explicit, Water Will (in Melody) is surely a journey… to an unfortunately unknown destination.

Lewis' <i>Water Will (In Melody)</i> © Dorothea Tuch
Lewis' Water Will (In Melody)
© Dorothea Tuch

A palette of whites and blacks, the piece starts with the closed curtains evolving into a glistening meadow with buzzing bugs and frogs. A woman, an explosive Dani Brown, in a white short bib covered with a clear plastic one, moves in an uncoordinated stocky fashion across the stage emitting sounds. She then retells in a violent crescendo a ‘grim’ tale before opening the curtains. In the empty stage, a projection identifies this as the first part: a woman in a black Latex dress and high heels, Susanne Sachsse, is standing, sensual, her back to the audience, while a wonderfully grounded Titilayo Adebayo in a white shirt-dress raps some words. Lewis appears in a dark corset with silver tones and black Latex underwear. From then on, the composition goes wild, with no real structure or fil rouge. It is a collection of short slapstick movement sequences, sometimes more explicitly erotic or religious, sometimes of undefined Bauschean proxemic gestures. The dancers also joke on getting out of the scene and then exiting. After a short break, we are served a parody of a showbiz number on Enya’s disco remixed Orinoco Flow; a string of pearls lands in the audience out of Sachsse’s mouth. Then, we are suddenly blinded, and a travelling spot graces our heads as it moves across the audience. In the second part, the figures are lost inside a cave with nebulised water trickling down. At a certain point, the side curtains form a frame for Adebayo's continuous jumping in the back, with a strong light from the right-hand corner. The piece ends with Brown ecstatically taking her top off under the rain and the ones in Latex trying to slide with no avail and free themselves mooning towards us before ending up scattered across the floor.

The Dominican Republic-born but Florida raised and now Berlin / NYC base, Lewis is a relatively young choreographer whose already very distinctive aesthetic signature fits well into the Berlin underground scene. I could feel the premiere was a very awaited event, by the trepidation of the audience, and in the crowd were several known faces of forward-looking artists and thinkers. For Water Will (in Melody) Lewis has been parading ‘grim’ nightmares. Loosely set, on the very short and ambiguously bleak ancestral fairy tale “ The Willful Child” collected by the Brothers Grimm – a dead unruly child is (apparently) refusing to be buried until the mother strikes his arm down with a rod – the material is reworked freely to discuss will in relation to “negotiating desire, imagination and feelings” upon an impending undefined catastrophe. Floating between an admonition to those parents who fail to discipline their children and the depiction of a murder, the narration is soon lost for more adults feminine matters – in the programme, the gender-neutral child of the Grimm brothers is replaced by a girl. If in the first part the women offer some resistance; at times it seems as if an external force is dragging them: is it their sexuality being controlled? have they been buried, submitting to the external regulatory force? They seem at peace in the cave. The piece is tightly worked. One could see the effort put into experimentation, especially during the über-deconstruction of the black box apparatus – from the effect of the box not having an end to the sudden blinding of the audience, to mention a few. The work is heavily reliant on the astonishing lighting design by Ariel Efraim Ashbel and on the strong stage presence and performing skills of the performers. Beyond this, I am lost. I felt shoved about aimlessly. 

Somehow when I feel I am forced to participate, forced to experience this or that, I retract. I am more than complacent in participating in a collective illusion or otherwise on stage, that is why I come to the theatre but when I feel I am forced, I shut down. Lewis’ Water Will (in Melody) is a great display or rather a feast of technological trick and impressing performing skills. As for the content – I was unable to make any logical or dreamy logic connection – it might have been buried so deep down in the cave that I might have missed it. 

***11