Andrew Dawson & Jozef Houben, Quatre Mains

Review in Issue 10-1 | Spring 1998

Restore your faith in the unlimited potential of theatre and see Andrew Dawson and Jozef Houben’s Quatre Mains. Using just the barest essentials, they provide a feast for the imagination that is a moment by moment surprise. Moving from the abstract through to the literal, Quatre Mains lies somewhere between choreography and theatre. It has no narrative structure and its single unifying feature are the four hands which move with and against an eclectic score of music and sound against a black background.

The show’s resources may at first sight appear limited, but the world it creates is huge. As the piece unfolds, theatrical devices of increasing sophistication trace the evolution of life itself. An ambient beginning has us relaxing to hypnotic dance-like gestures as occasional philosophical statements float dreamily to our ears. Shapes begin to form and primordial organisms become sea life: land life goes on to become humanity, until by the end we are witness to a monstrous finale of epic proportions, albeit on a small-scale. We are, of course, by now fully versed in hand ‘speak’.

Dawson and Houben are sharp. Their movement is as precise as their wit is subtle. When they briefly step out of their roles as dead-pan puppeteers to adopt a series of ‘natural’ poses, so precisely have we been primed that by now the merest twitch of a thumbnail at the right moment holds comic significance. Life for them acts as a medium for language: the language of the body, stage and screen. Always humorous, Dawson and Houben expose, send up and celebrate commonly accepted modes of expression in a way that is guaranteed to have you sitting like a wide-eyed child.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-1
p. 24