Love letters sung from hospital beds

A row of hospital beds. And all of a sudden those ailing women just laying there turn out to be singers. It’s great how Autopsie van een gebroken hart (Autopsy of a broken heart) really takes you to another world, just by means of that ingenious setting. As an audience you are sitting in front of those beds, while the music is coming to you from here, there and everywhere. Too bad this new music theatre-production by Ghent-based LOD doesn’t succeed in really sweeping you off your feet.

Autopsie van een gebroken hart is based on Laissez-moi/Commentaire (1929) by French author Marcelle Sauvageot (1900-1934). It’s the only book she has ever written, and it has become some sort of classic, revered by several French writers. As Sauvageot gets diagnosed with tuberculosis, she has to leave Paris and her lover. Two years later, that lover tells her he’s going to marry someone else. Instead of  love he offers her friendship. In her letters, a heartbroken Sauvageot dissects her feelings and tries to find a new balance.

In Autopsie Sauvageot’s letters are read and played by three actresses. They lay or sit on their beds, or walk around. Their words are mixed with the music, which is a combination of a recorded orchestral score and live singing by eight ‘patients’: singers from the Aquarius choir.

I was really taken away by that intriguing, contemporary classical score (a requiem) by Dominique Pauwels. In her play theatre director An De Donder strives to respect the poetry and musicality of Sauvageot’s words and sentences, but somehow the actresses never seem to find the right tone. It felt as if they were still struggling with their lines, still searching for the right way to ‘say’ them.

For me, that meant that I was never really captivated by this Autopsie. I never felt the beat of Sauvageot’s broken heart. Once again this proved to me how difficult it is to bring a music theatre performance to the stage: it’s all about balance. But nevertheless: great setting; special evening.

Next performances on January 20, 21, 22 and 23, Muziekcentrum De Bijloke, Gent. Info here.

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