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"Talkshow" by artist Miet Warlop and film scholar Hilde D'haeyere is an overly noncommittal slapstick collage #dekeuze

She bends over. A huge wooden shot thunders over film scientist Hilde D'haeyere around and smashes against the playing floor. She stays alive through a recess in the wood. Unperturbed, she springs up and continues reading from her essay: a scholarly treatise on function of slapstick in the silent films of Charlie Chapin and Buster Keaton, as well as in the work of visual artist cum theatre maker Miet Warlop.

The audience will witness a talk show tonight, D'haeyere says. Literally. While D'haeyere teaches dry food, Warlop trudges stoically across the stage - a room full of fearsome-looking wooden structures - performing one slapstick stunt after another. Images from Warlop's previous shows and performances also pass by, such as the walking set pieces from Springville (2009) and the blow-up dolls from Trailer Park (2011). As a constant, sadistic sabotage of D'haeyeres wrought theoretical argument.

The stunts at Talkshow are witty, but a bit droll. Especially for fans of the sadomasochistic skateboard slapstick of the men from Jackass, or the insane antics of Finnish rock 'n roll stunters Race Horse Company - incidentally, the uncrowned kings of the genre.

For instance, Warlop uses a catapult construction to launch a toy dog against a Chinese vase - which crashes with a bang from a scaffold. She crawls into a little table on wheels that, set to speed by a On land, sea or air-like roller track, clumsily bumping into the first row of the audience stand. Or she harasses D'haeyere by manipulating the height of her microphone stand with a bicycle pump.

Much of Talkshow leans on this short gags. It is only when the images and ideas pile up for a while that the performance becomes really interesting.

Like when Walrop punches a hole in the aforementioned wooden bulkhead with a karate kick. Clad in a tight brown overall, equipped with one black-haired gorilla foot and one black-haired gorilla claw, the Flemish artist clambers through the hole and steps between several blocks of Styrofoam. This to the accompaniment of crackling horror screams from a 1930s B-movie. The piled-up packing material is reminiscent of the old Manhattan skyline - including Twin Towers. As a tall blonde, deconstructed King Kong Warlop grabs one of the white towers and slowly pushes it down, into a pan of a (presumably) superchemical substance. The Styrofoam tower block dissolves completely from bottom to top. Bedeesed, D'haeyere barely rose above the din.

Yet something gnaws at Talkshow. It all feels just a little too non-committal. This has to do with the way Warlop moves across the stage: completely unimpressive and unperturbed in everything she does, in the best tradition of the it-will-make-me-a-worst-or-anyone-understands-what-is-going-on.performance art. Such an attitude suffices in a gallery, but in the theatre it is not so exciting to watch.

Talkshow, by Miet Walrop and Hilde D'haeyere. Seen on 27 September at the Rotterdam Schouwburg, Kleine Zaal. Still to be seen there until 28 September.


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Daniel Bertina

/// Freelance cultural journalist, critic, writer and dramatist. Omnivore with a love of art, culture & media in all unfathomable gradations between obscure underground and wildly commercial mainstream. Also works for Het Parool and VPRO. And trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.View Author posts

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