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Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents ONE SONG By MIET WARLOP

Maarten Van Cauwenberghe composed a song that, over the course of an hour, energized rather than drained its audience.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents ONE SONG By MIET WARLOP

What if Philip Glass led The Ramones? This is as good an introduction as any to Miet Warlop's One Song, which recently premiered in the Festival d'Avignon's Cour du Lycée Saint Joseph. The title, One Song, is more or less accurate, as Warlop presents to the audience how one simple song can transform, hypnotize, and energize. It's an hour-long metaphorical treadmill, neatly paired with a very literal treadmill that singer Joppe Tanghe performs on at a brisk jog for roughly the duration of the piece.

All of the musicians in the band have their own physically brutal and repetitive track. Elizabeth Klinck performs the violin on the balance beam. Simon Beeckaert plays the cello while on his back. Melvin Slabbinck runs back and forth across the stage, beating his deconstructed drum set with ferocity. William Lenaerts jumps up and down from a springboard to press the keys on a just out of reach keyboard. Lastly, there is Milan Schudel cheering them all on in a cheerleader's uniform. Though as the evening moves to a more hypnotic space, Schudel begins to add to the soundscape, chanting to himself and spinning like a whirling dervish while holding onto a tablet with the word "if" on it. A small on stage crowd cheers the band on from their bleachers.

There is a dialogue in this piece between repetition and change. An on stage metronome is fiddled with, transforming the song from punk anthem to power ballad and back again. Though once the band reaches their rhythmic cruising altitude, a fast rock pace, it isn't abandoned. The performers don't miss their mark, compelled by this rhythm, which reverberates throughout the space. They are a team, using their bodies to keep the song, and the energy, afloat.

It is a regimented space, not a sterile one. Set elements like the chalk used by Lenaerts to help Klinck onto the balance beam cascade through the space. Carol Piron and Filles à Papa's costumes are both fun and utilitarian, with long oversized scarves for the fans and a pompom wig for Schudel. The main feature of Warlop's set isn't the bleachers or the exercise equipment but an oversized flag, which waves patriotically throughout the production. This is a flag for no nation in particular, and is given its own mumbled national anthem at the end of the performance, led through a megaphone by announcer Karin Tanghe.

Maarten Van Cauwenberghe composed a song that, over the course of an hour, energized rather than drained its audience. The experience of listening to one song on repeat for an hour fiddles between tedious and ecstatic. However, if you disengage, the band does not. They consistently push through to something greater. In the end, all affect is worn off, as their shirts are soaked through with sweat. Planned self-expression crumbles away to something more raw, even quasi-religious. When it was all said and done, they received a near immediate and universal standing ovation, an uncommon occurrence in Avginon.

From This Author - Wesley Doucette

Wesley Doucette is a PhD student in French Literature at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses include French cultural institutions such as the Festival d'Avignon and the innovations of administrators... (read more about this author)

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