The operational theatre

Afterwords: Jérôme Bel: The Show Must Go On / 20 Jul 2002English

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Contextual note
This text is part of the project Afterwords, curated by Jeroen Peeters for the festival ImPulsTanz Vienna in summer 2002. Every night, three critics in residence shared their impressions and thoughts on the performances immediately after having seen them, in an act of instantaneous writing. During the process of writing, these comments were projected in the theatre lobby and later that night made available on the websites and
A selection of the texts by Jeroen Peeters is available on Sarma, in a slightly edited version, sometimes with a postscript. Two essays elucidate the project Afterwords and reflect on its poetical and political implications. To retrieve the material, search under: ‘Afterwords’.

Sometimes I am wondering if Jérôme Bel is a theatre director in the traditional sense of the word or rather a 'stage manager'. I mean, someone able to let the sun shine and imposing an ultimate control upon the world going on within this black box, that's something. Everything appears to be well-managed, operational so to speak. The presence of the performers is operational, even the event itself, although apparently happening here and now, is operational.

'The show must go on' drives this phenomenon to a hyperbolic extent, even touching the limits of these people’s staged identities (these strange grinning faces...) and of this way of making theatre (what seems to exceed language is at once readable in a song – Imagine, to give one example). Killing me softly... Because we are speaking about theatre (and of course Bel is a director in whatever sense of the word); note that the music, carrying the whole dramaturgy along, is spatialised precisely at the height of the proscenium frame that separates stage and auditorium. Only in one scene one could suspect that the operational world has an everyday quality, La vie en rose, quoi...

Maybe one should just reply with a song: "What's this? A little dust in my eye" (Laurie Anderson).