‘Do Animals Cry’: Meg Stuart’s mesmerizing new performance
‘Here we go’, the guy next to me sighed, as the lights went out. ‘Yeah, with her you never know what to expect’, his friend answered, just before the Paris’ premiere of Meg Stuart’s Do Animals Cry. It was meant to be a joke. They were most certainly referring to a performance of the American choreographer that had tried their patience. But it made me think: isn’t that a really enviable position to be in, as an artist?
Looking at a Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods-performance often feels to me like being dropped on another planet. Humans are living there too, and their behaviour resembles ours. But their life is a warped, surreal and in a strange way a much more essential version of ours.
When the lights go up on Do Animals Cry, you see a big tunnel made of wooden sticks, a pink doghouse, a table and a couple of chairs, a tiny white podium to sit on and a drum-kit. And then you notice them, the members of the family you’re going to spend your evening with, in pyjamas. Do Animals Cry is Stuart’s portrayal of that familiar and strange entity we call ‘family’. You get lots of little scenes and choreographies, dealing with everything a family can be or do.
There’s loving and caring, teasing and seducing. You see friends and lovers, important decisions are being announced, children are given some sound advice, there’s mourning and partying, the long lost son is welcomed back, the enfant terrible is being shut out, family snapshots are taken, and somewhere in between they all take the dog for a walk.
I’ve seen all of that, in Théâtre De La Ville, but at the same time I’ve felt many other things too. That’s because Meg Stuart is, to go back to the beginning, so gifted in offering us a sort of surreal summary of what we humans do. Sometimes just the beginning of a movement is enough to carry the meaning of everything that could follow. She’s good as well in slowly pulling you into her world, one where things don’t need to be explained, because you sense what they are all about. Do Animals Cry takes its time. Its slow pace adds to a dreamy atmosphere, that is enhanced by a mesmerizing, often hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Hahn Rowe.
Do Animals Cry is funny and sad, recognisable and weird. There’s bits and pieces that remind you of her previous performances. The guys next to me had left, before I could ask them what they had made of it. But Do Animals Cry proves one thing: if you are thinking that Meg Stuart’s performances can only be twisted and distant, think again. This moved me in a way I’d forgotten somebody could move me in a theatre. So yes, they were right. With Meg Stuart one never knows what to expect.
Do Animals Cry will come to Stockholm, Brussels and Antwerp in October, and to Kortrijk, Leuven, Essen and Rotterdam in December. For more info, click here.
(photo credit: Fred Kihn)