Singspiele is an objet de vertu, in every sense. A mantra, or a litany, in its unfolding...it is a quiet, devotional and detailed folk opera, a composed walk through a living portrait gallery of real people.
To try and describe art it is often to reduce it. But...
Singspiele is a series of connected tableaux vivants, Performer David Mambouch wears a flat, rectangular mask with a face on it. This face is the re-presentation of a moment in the life of a person, and Mambouch, for a few seconds, is that person. He makes the instant of photographic capture his starting point for sharing an immersion in the moment, extruding this 2D human surface for the audience into a third and fourth dimension, and a magical, unavoidable fifth. He removes this photograph, revealing another in its place. Physical manifestation quickly gives way to a hypnotic magnification. Embodied is perhaps the correct word for how Mambouch performs, but really, the movement feels LIVED. There are no surroundings, only the wonderful and complex reality of a person, recognisable, recognised, as we move, station to station from one to the next. The artifice is never concealed, the system at work is clear but not inhuman. Mambouch takes breaks from his game between movements, but the spell never breaks. It is insistently beautiful.
The collage of Mambouch's physical presence and his costumes and the score is an unobtrusive relationship. And yet when the open-mouthed man, clad in a sheet, stares out at us, and we hear busy traffic steaming along in its usual self-important way, close-by, it is impossible not to feel the man's extended loneliness along with him. The compositional delicacy which points the way again and again is a marvel. The elements are so simple, all of them, but the way these colours are mixed is alchemical and wonderful.
There are many funny moments, Churchill appears, with a slightly wild look in his eye and suddenly Mambouch is fat. Or Stan Laurel in a twinset, no less accurate a portrait for the incongruity of the image. There are a couple of pointedly extreme outliers too, for instance a shaven-headed woman looking to the side (perhaps from a concentration camp, I recognised her but couldn't place her) is alive but beaten.
The cumulative effect of the smooth transitions might have been a blurring of individuality, but the spare precision of the movement somehow prevents that happening. There are no borders between these characterisations, just a continual recombination, minimal and real.
I don't think there's any point trying to describe how Marin and Mambouch might have made this exciting and exacting work. But sculpting an idea as broad as this into the matchbox-sized instants of recognition and empathy of Singspiele is the business of real art, and a joy to watch. The tiniest movement of a wrist or a hip echoes loudly in my brain; suddenly I am pouplating the bare image in front of me, investing it with the reality of my own experience. My own internal life is transformed into a psychic thread, binding me tightly to the characters - the people - in front of me. This very ordinariness of Mambouch's movement is that of my mother, my friends, me even....there is a strange, active back-and-forth between choreography and audience which I have never seen before, which is presented sparely and clearly.
The ten minutes immediately after the performance saw me having to run to the car to park it legally, and despite my fluster, the streets were full of all sorts of legible, hilarious, real, warm people who I had never quite seen before.
Food for the soul, beautifully performed, generously made. You'll feel a little better after seeing it.
Bryan for DRAFF
Singspiele by Maguy Marin runs at Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Dance Festival until May 24th. Image: S. Rouaud.
Posted: 24 May 2017