Lonely girl with a red laptop in a big city singing Abba: Fabrice Murgia’s impressive ‘Life: reset’

The stage is dark. The only thing you see is a bathroom. Only part of it, because you’re looking at that bathroom through a door. You’re looking at a girl in a red dress in that bathroom. She’s not feeling well. And suddenly that bathroom starts moving. To the left, to the right. To the left, to the right. And all of a sudden, just by looking at that moving bathroom, you feel nauseous. Just as she does. It’s one of many great images young Belgian theatre director Fabrice Murgia comes up with in Life: reset/chronique d’une ville épuisée. And even though I was not entirely convinced by his newest piece, presented at Théâtre National (Brussels; as part of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts), I do understand why so many people are impressed by his talent. I am too.

Shall I make things easy for you? And label Life: reset as a mix of Guy Cassiers and Romeo Castellucci? With some David Lynch thrown in? Unfortunately I had missed Fabrice Murgia’s much acclaimed Le chagrin des ogres, so I really wanted to catch his new piece, to see what the fuss was all about. And yes, you immediately feel that you’re in the presence of a talented director who’s not afraid to aim high. Just as Guy Cassiers he juxtaposes live acting and filmed images, just as Romeo Castellucci he tries to say a lot without words but with beautifully constructed sets, mysterious scenes and powerful images.

Life: reset – inspired by Request concert (Franz-Xaver Kroetz) and Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman) – is a play without words. The only words you’ll hear are the words that appear, written on a giant (see-through) screen in front of the stage. The sentences that lonely girl lost types on her red laptop; the conversations she has in cyberspace. Yes, what Murgia focuses on in Life: reset isn’t that new or original. It’s about the loneliness of a girl in a big city, in this day and age. A girl who’s trying to escape the dullness of her everyday life in cyberspace, and by dreaming of great performances as a singer in a red dress singing Abba’s The winner takes it all. And yes, gradually paranoia seeps in.

It’s quite impressive to watch the theatrical wizardry on stage. The ways Murgia has found to translate thoughts and emotions in images, using theatre, film and sound scape. It’s just a pity that as a storyteller he falls short. As I said: the story he’s telling has been told before. Life: reset would have benefited from a stronger ‘story’, with better episodes, mixed in a better way; from content that would have had a bit more body. But hey, as I wrote earlier: impressive. I had missed his first one, but I will make sure I won’t miss his next ones.

For a short video clip, click here. But if you’re planning on going to ‘Life: reset’, don’t watch it, as it gives away too many details.

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