Puppets, rifles and a missing finger: ‘Monkey Sandwich’ by Wim Vandekeybus

Anyone who’s ever seen a Wim Vandekeybus performance knows one thing: the guy likes to tell stories. Anyone who’s ever seen a Wim Vandekeybus performance knows another thing too: as a storyteller he’s a restless one. And this restlessness is, once again, what spoils Monkey Sandwich, his new performance. Even though the Belgian choreographer/director opts for film instead of dance, this time around. A film performance is what Vandekeybus calls it: apart from that big movie screen, there’s a naked guy running around on stage too.

The first part will come as a surprise, to every Vandekeybus aficionado. Here he is, telling an almost straight story on that filmscreen, of a self-assured director (played by Forced Entertainment-actor Jerry Killick) and a bunch of insecure actors trying to mount a play. You get some wonderful acting, great images and dialogues, and nice jokes. Wow, is his film going to be a real, Dogma-like movie, you wonder? But no. After a while the tone shifts completely and you get a string of strange and surreal stories. Back to well-known Vandekeybus territory. Those stories are also where the performance derives its title from: Monkey Sandwich, a literal translation of the Dutch expression ‘broodje aap‘, which means: those weird stories people keep on telling each other even though they aren’t true, most of the time.

A pregnant woman, a flooded village, a  couple of guys with rifles on a weird hunting trip, a father and a son sitting around a hole in the ice, and that one recurring question: how did the lead character lose his finger? All the while, you have this naked young actor running on stage too, mumbling undecipherable words, rearranging his stuff, playing around with a bunch of strange puppets, climbing on a pillar and jumping in a big aquarium.

Is there an explanation for all of this? Will Vandekeybus tell you how this all relates? Yes and no. It’s clear that, first and foremost, he wants to enchant you with wonderful images and strange stories. Tales which, as always, are referring to big themes: love, birth, death, fathers and sons. And there most certainly is an appealing aspect to this charming frenzy and unbridled fantasy. But nevertheless, you expect more from this. Sure, by juggling with beautiful images, hinting at deep thoughts, everyone will probably see something in Monkey sandwich and thus take home some part of it. But there is an inability to really focus that makes you wonder: what is it that this restless Vandekeybus really wants to tell us?

Info and tour schedule here.

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