If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there, like a puppet on a string: ‘Niks of Niks’ (Jan Decorte/Comp. Marius)

‘This looks like a puppet-show, the only thing missing are the curtains.’ One of the actors says it, rather casually, during Niks of Niks, but in fact it’s the perfect summary for the new play by Belgian theatre legend Jan Decorte, conceived in collaboration with Comp. Marius from Antwerp. It premiered at Kaaitheater (Brussels). Their radical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much ado about nothing (performance in Dutch) really resembles such a puppet-show: it’s a bunch of grown-ups performing Shakespeare as if they were still kids. It makes for a funny evening, but nothing more than that.

Shakespeare or not: with Jan Decorte you know what you’re at: his performances never take longer than an hour. And to make this one even easier to take in, Decorte, who acts throughout Niks of Niks as the story-teller, gives the audience, right after the start, a short summary of what will happen (‘But if you think about leaving, don’t forget to applaud first’). In interviews about this performance, he has made it quite clear already what he thinks about this play: it’s nothing but a bunch of people just hanging around, fooling around and dancing a bit.

In Decorte’s version, it’s not at all about the intrigue. He doesn’t care about building tension or working towards some sort of climax. The actors are just having fun, as kids would have, playing the love stories of grown ups, and dancing in between. Decorte puts lots of slightly obscene, silly jokes in his adaptation as well. As usual with Decorte: the stage setting is simple but beautiful: all of the actors are wearing the same blue dresses, and that lopsided house, up in the air (by Belgian artist Johan Daenen), could really work as a work of art.

It’s a joy to watch these actors fooling around, but after a while you start craving for a little bit more than just all this silliness. In interviews they state that this play says a lot about the way people behave in this day and age. I must say watching this scabrous comedy didn’t really make me think of anything more profound. So: nice one, but I’ve seen better plays by this respected, eccentric Belgian theatre director.

On tour till March 17. Info here.

 

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