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BWW Review: TRAPTOWN at Grand Théâtre

BWW Review: TRAPTOWN at Grand Théâtre

The show we are covering this week is Wim Vandekeybus's TrapTown, a thought-provoking performance composed by multiple artistic elements, brought together on stage to narrate a singular epic tale. While dance is no doubt one of the most important pillars of the play, TrapTown managed to entangle the remarkable dancing skills of its eight performers with very well-timed acting scenes and film sequences, creating a unique hybrid immersed in mythological themes and universal subjects of reflection.

The story focuses on the political tensions of Askeville, a city inhabited by two social groups: the Odinese and the Mythricians. Much of this complex urban body is presented to us through movie clips, projected in black and white in the background, both in stand-alone scenes and in moments of dialogue between recorded characters and actors on stage. We come to learn that after four thousand years of shared history, the two clans have managed to reach little more than an uneasy social truce, perpetuated by economic dynamics that have turned the Mythricians into Odinese serfs. State and civil laws put in place over the years are clearly rooted in the Odinese culture and way of thinking, having little or no regard for Mythrician traditions. When the son of the mayor decides to assist the oppressed class and challenge his father and peers, Askeville responds to this opportunity for change in a way that is not uncharacteristic of communities that desperately need a fresh start.

The gold: The fight scenes. Or any scenes of physical confrontation, for that matter. Perhaps not a surprising win, given Vandekeybus's skills as a choreographer, but the truth is that TrapTown's battles were pretty much amazing. There was emotion and craft in every movement, with a splendid balance between the beauty of dance and the raw passion of a physical confrontation. The music, the setting and the plot were all perfectly integrated with every fight, and still managed to add to these scenes, but the choreography and the performers take home the gold with their own merit.

The silver: The film clips. It was honestly surprising to see such a high quality of film production in this performance. Apart from a couple of mismatching lines between the actors on stage and the recordings, the clips gave this show a tremendous artistic depth and allowed the audience to gain a more complete understanding of the social dynamics of Askeville. The contrast between the black and white recordings and the colours of the live performance also added greatly to a play already filled with meaningful symbolism, by helping, among other things, to widen the gap between the Odinese ruling class and the oppressed Mythricians.

The bronze: The Mayor. While it is true that the script made his lines and role particularly epic, this character deserves a word of praise for the great acting and delivery. His wiser-than-thou attitude towards his son and his full-of-sh*t speech to the commoners were extremely well-executed, managing to define not only the upper-class of this play, but pretty much all upper-strata in History that have ever held political power over a distinct group of people.

Suggestion box: There were some moments when pairs of interacting dancers performed too far away from each other with distinct choreographies. In fighting scenes this should not be an issue, given the fact that we are dealing with an aggressive and chaotic confrontation, but the large distance between the performers did sometimes force you to focus on specific dancers. The decision (if intended) could be symbolic, but as a spectator you could easily feel like you were missing some of the action, especially given the quality of the choreographies.

As always, our thanks to the Grand Théatre and congratulations to everyone who participated on this play.

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Image credit: Danny Willems

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