Tuesday, 12 October 2004

uBUNG by Josse De Pauw & Koen Gisen, Oct 12, 2004

uBUNG by Josse De Pauw & Koen Gisen  
By Victoria (Belgium)
Melbourne Festival of Arts
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, October 12 to 17, 2004 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

UBUNG, by Belgian company, Victoria, is unlike any other show. It tickles, disturbs and yet is deceptively simple. Many shows incorporate film, but uBUNG does it differently.

Director and writer, Josse De Pauw, is also on of six adult actors who appear on screen. Three men and two women are captured on film during a very dysfunctional, very middle class dinner party in a comfortable home in a leafy region.

For most of the 75 minutes, their voices are muted while, on stage, young teenagers dub the adult voices with uncanny and often comical accuracy.

UBUNG works on several levels. Firstly, it is delightfully entertaining to hear the childish voices replicating the drunken babblings of adults and see them lip sync the dialogue so perfectly.

Secondly, we experience a peculiar reality shift as we witness the children dressing up in replicas of the adults costumes.

At a deeper level, because of the overlaying of child and adult, we are jolted into acknowledging that these adults are not grown ups at all, but children who have access to more intoxicants and experience greater social and personal problems.

We recognise that these children will become these adults in 20 years. uBUNG means ' practice' and this is what the children are doing; practising to be grown ups. uBUNG asks question about what we are teaching our children and how they interpret it.

The heightened performances on screen are rivetting. De Pauw plays Robert, the frisky host who is bored with his melancholy wife, Rolanda, (Carly Wys) and attracted to Ria, (Lies Pauwels) the dizzy, young, blonde wife of his philistine friend, Ivo. (Dirk Roofthooft)

The fifth wheel at the party is Olivier, (Bernard Van Eeghem) an eccentric, middle aged mother's boy who recites poetry with childish actions.

The sixth adult on screen is Georgy (George Van Dam) a Russian concert violinist with whom Rolanda is infatuated and who is bemused by the entire group.

Although the children lip sync to the large screen and on-stage monitors, there is no attempt to make them engage in all the ridiculous sexual antics, confused bickerings or ungainly violence of the adults. They engage and disengage with their characters with ease as taking on and off their costume.

UBUNG is performed predominantly in Flemish but the themes and characters are universal.

LOOK FOR:  Olivier's absurd rendition of a poem with actions.

By Kate Herbert

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