‘A candy bar and a newspaper, please.’ Or how we manage to act like nothing’s going on. (‘Reset’, by Tristero)

Want to know how the members of that modest, ever so funny Flemish theatre company Tristero are linked to the international weapons trade? And how every one of us is, actually? Then buy a ticket for Tristero’s performance Reset – which premiered at Kaaitheater (Brussels) – and by the end, you’ll have figured it out. But don’t be puzzled when they’ll let you spend some time in a magazine store, first.

That first moment is pure genius. When the lights go on, you see three actors, frozen for a moment or so, in a brightly lit Relay magazine shop. It is as if somebody has pushed on the pause button of life. Just for a second. And then they continue their daily existence. Selling magazines and candy, buying that newspaper on the way to the train, delivering goods.

The setting of Reset is pure genius too: rebuilding on stage that all so familiar newspaper shop you’ll come across in every train or metro station. As if they have lifted it from just around the corner and put it down in a theater. As if they’ve cut a piece out of the real world and put it on stage, for us to observe. It’s downright surreal. Especially in combination with that keen eye and the sense of humor of the Tristero actors; their gift for observing us humans and imitating us, as they present a series of customers, coming and going, in short scenes.

Of course, when you see this parade of funny characters and this series of non-important actions and events, you start wondering about the things we fill our days with. The futile things we fuss about, when there are so many, much more important things going on in the world. It’s inevitable. You just can’t avoid it, when it’s put right in your face. For me, it could have stopped there. I would have gladly watched this funny parade, I would have gone home, feeling slightly weird, but nevertheless: thinking about how surreal it all is. How we manage to get on with our lives, neglecting all the serious issues we should be caring about.

But for Tristero that magazine shop apparently just wasn’t enough. And so they added another layer to make their point. I will not tell you too much about it, because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it comes down to trying to aggrandize that feeling I was talking about, by putting it right in your face. And so they try to explain in which way even the most futile things are linked to much bigger things. How even that unimportant magazine shop from just around the corner is linked to the international weapons trade. Yes, how even those three modest actors from that modest Flemish theater company are linked to it and are guilty.

For me, by adding this extra layer, Tristero was taking it just one step too far. Especially because it felt too contrived. I can understand that, as artists, they wanted something more. But to me it seems they haven’t found the right way to combine their lighter side with that urge to make some sort of more serious, political statement too.

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