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Flash Review 2, 11-27: Giving the Finger to the Audience
Fabre Flashes, and Three Countries Fund it

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2002 The Dance Insider

(Reader's Advisory: The following contains descriptions of objectionable physical acts, which descriptions are unfortunately necessary to describe an objectionable evening of alleged dance-theatre. Readers who are easily offended, or for that matter even readers who are not easily offended, might want to skip this one. Especially if they've not yet had their breakfast.)

PARIS -- Let's talk about funding problems. Not the kind in the States, where even hard-working choreographers with original ideas find it increasingly challenging to access direct public monies, but the kind in Europe, where perpetual teenagers like Jan Fabre have their adolescent gross-out fantasies, barely justified by only the thinnest veneer of a dramatic premise, enabled by funding from at least three countries. I suppose Fabre's "Parrots and Guinee Pigs," which premiered last night at one of the funders, the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt (oh how we could have used some intervention from the Divine One), is trying to make a point about animal experimentation by reversing the roles. But I don't know that laboratory animals run rampant masturbating and humping everything in site (as several naked men in Fabre's Troubleyn company did, air humping, spitting on and pulling at their members, wagging them, and popping them out of their underwear to the mock consternation of suited women trying to cover them up). I don't know that laboratory animals are prompted to stick their fingers in each other's butts to induce bowel movements. I don't know that they flounce about naked with shopping bags over their heads to "If I Could Talk to the Animals," as several women did in the evening's first group number. I don't know that they obsessively try to induce vomiting in themselves or their companions, or ingest toilet paper which their companions then pull out the other end.

Performers costumed as the furry things also tortured others in their underwear by compressing their genitals and other means. Not that real animals were spared from torture. The evening opened with the squawking of a beautiful, tropically colored real parrot, trying to respond to the instruction of a woman dressed in a red bathrobe and parrot feathers barking at him through a megaphone. But that wasn't the cruelest turn for our feathered friend. That came later, when, after turning his perch around so he faced away from the audience, a performer placed a mirror in front of him so he was forced to watch the inane profanity with the rest of us.

Even though last night was the premiere, word of the impending offense must have trickled out; as I exited early, I ran straight into a reporter from German-Belgium radio interviewing another rejectionist about why she decided to leave. When the reporter turned to me, I sputtered in French, "C'est malade." When she asked me why I was so mad, I explained it was the waste: The waste of good money that other choreographers out there, struggling but with real messages, could have put to better use; the waste of an opportunity to create art; and of course, the waste of my time. There is a tale waiting to be told about human exploitation of animals, but Fabre has not told that tale. Instead, he's cheaply exploited it as a means to the end of simply offending us.

The culpable parties for this travesty, in addition to the Theatre de la Ville, are co-producers Salamanca 2002, Capitale culturelle, Bruges 2002, Capitale culturelle, deSingel in Antwerp, Le Maillon in Strasbourg, Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfort, and Le Cargo, Maison de la Culture, Grenoble.

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