Seven knights desperately trying not to fall off the earth

'Lapsit Exillis' (Eric Legrand)

Sometimes it’s like Lego. There are pieces that you like, and bits that you don’t like. Lapsit exillis, the new performance by French-German director Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski  (at Théatre National, Brussels) certainly has some fascinating elements, such as its striking decor and its strange music (organ), but it was the acting that didn’t really convince me.

 

The flat earth serving as a round table, for knights to sit around. That was the starting point. But it was a stroke of genius to tilt that table, which means that during Lapsit exillis Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski’s modern knights have to make sure they don’t fall off their earth, or their seats, around that table.

Von Wantoch Rekowski (whose motto is: theatre for the ears, music for the eyes) was studying Wagner, when she stumbled upon the well-known Arthurian legends of the Knights of the Round Table. She became intrigued by that world and those values: the heroic warriors and their idea of brotherhood. Lapsit exillis derives its title from the story of an emerald that was taken by angels from Lucifer’s crown and fell to the earth.

But don’t come looking for knights in shining armors, in Lapsit exillis. Von Wantoch Rekowski puts her seven knights in well-made suits, with extra knee and elbow caps for protection. They walk and run around that table (and desperately try not to fall off of it), they shout, fight and sing. And if they do fall, they disappear underneath the table. And don’t try to understand them, because when they speak they do so in a language you won’t know. For me, all that was a bit too much. Too grotesque. Too much of a caricature, at times.

In my view the performance would have been better if it would have had a darker side. If it would have dared to go slower. And would have been more of a ritual. (I kept on thinking: what would somebody like Wayn Traub have done with this wonderful table?) I found it a little bit over the top, for instance, to see Rekowski’s knights dance and shout as Maori’s do. Repetition in a performance can be a good thing, but after a while I did get the impression that Von Wantoch Rekowski had run out of idea’s. The table had beaten the knights.

(photo credit: Eric Legrand)

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