The big bang according to Philippe Quesne? Slow, dreamlike, green and funny

As I was walking to my car, the music in the parking lot sounded a whole lot stranger than before. As I was driving away, I was sort of expecting that green men would jump out of the bushes along the road. Funny how watching a performance sometimes can affect for a moment or so the way you look at the world. Just one of the reasons why I really liked Philippe Quesne‘s Big bang. It premiered in Germany in July, was performed during the Festival d’Avignon and is now brought to Belgium by Vooruit (Ghent) and Next Festival (Kortrijk).

Was I the only one expecting that it would begin with a loud BANG? Instead a lady sat down at a table, started reading a book and after a while formed the word ‘bang’ on that table with four big white letters. Welcome to the strange, surreal and funny world of French scenographer/director Philippe Quesne, where everything seems to happen in slow motion. Where Star Trek and Barbapapa neatly coexist.

Imagine that Jacques Tati would be telling the story of the beginning of the world. It would be slow, it would be funny, it wouldn’t make sense and in a strange way it would as well. That’s how I perceived Big bang. On slow ambient music Quesne’s actors construct and deconstruct a series of scenes. They give each other instructions of how it should be done. There’s always somebody carrying a sketch-book, as to make a drawing of every single scene.

Some strange amoeba-like creatures are moving around on Quesne’s earth at first. Later on you see bearded cavemen. There’s a car lying upside down (another big bang?) and a mountain of yellow inflatable boats. Many clouds of mist of course, and funny looking astronauts. All of a sudden a pond appears on stage and green men carry trees around. I told you: it doesn’t make sense. But with all these elements Quesne nevertheless succeeds in slowly pulling you in. The slow (sometimes a bit too slow) pace and zen-like, surreal quality of this performance really does get to you. At least: it did get to me. The woman sitting next to me clearly didn’t understand why I thought this to be so funny. And she was really glad when it was all over.

For a short interview with Philippe Quesne on ‘Big bang’, click here and a short Arte clip, click here.

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