Lights up, a bare white stage with a tent constructed from sticks and canvas sits upstage left. Two people, a man and woman, vibrate onto the stage dressed in smart woollen clothes and moleskin winter hats. As if shaking from the coldness of Siberia, the couple’s vibrating grows into specific bodily contortions, seemingly in dialogue with another, but the patterns in movement are hard to decipher. Lobke Leirens and Maxim Storms are robustly solid performers with a delicate eccentricity that illuminates the stage. Outside their tent, in a snowy wilderness, the onstage couple grapple with the insecurities and prickly dynamics they have with one another. With the attitude and energy of two children, the couple move jerkily around the stage, nervous to be seen by the other. In the mundanity of domestic life, the couple play games. The more they play, the more like children they seem, and the crueller they become.
The rules to the games seem to change in favour of either the man or the woman and are inconsistent: a card game whereby cards are put down one after another, both shouting numbers not related to what’s on the cards. Whoever shouts ’10’ gets all the cards, apparently, except for when Lobke does. Sometimes the only rule or goal seems to be ‘push the other person over’.
The aesthetic is stark and bare and the music progresses from quaint to intense. The bizarre, isolated body movements and minute, repeated gestures create modes of behaviour in both characters that reflect the idiosyncrasies in intimate relationships. Even though both are in a constant battle between desires for intimacy and distance, their connection with each other onstage is bursting with energy. The smallest movements are in relation to one another, as if every inch of them are attached to with strings between their bodies.
The cruelty in the characters’ behaviour doesn’t seem to come from a place of malice – rather, they appear to be a couple who were brought together to survive the harshness of the wild world and are now trying to survive each other. In their innocence came a naivety so that when the matrimonial became mandatory and the duress of a repetitive home life took its toll, it allowed their feelings towards the circumstance to change. Innate enjoyment in their games gradually morph into spite, as they innocently and unknowingly turn that spite towards each other.
Part of the Big in Belgium programme at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018, Another One is a prime example of what high quality, European avant-garde looks like in contemporary theatre. An entertaining examination of people’s capacity for maleficence within domestic settings, as well as the complexity of intimate relationships.