Conceived and created by Michele Anne De Mey, Jaco von Dormael and Kiss and Cry Collective. Written by Thomas Gunzig. A collective creation by Gregory Grosjean, Thomas Gunzig, Julien Lambert,Sylvie Olive.Nicolas Olivier with the participation of Thomas Beni, Glaadys Brookfield-Haampson, Boris Cekeevda, Gabriella Iacono, Aurelie Leporcq, Bruno Olivier, Stefano Serra. Ridley Centre. Adelaide Showgrounds.Adelaide Festival. March 5-8 2020
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
The fascination is aroused as the lights fade and Thomas Gunzig’s text begins with Toby Regbo’s ethereal narration.
Your eyes are open, but you see nothing.
You’ve switched off your phone
Because you’ve been asked to.
You think you’re at the theatre
And yet you’re already elsewhere.
You will live seven deaths.
Without worry, without fear.
Each death is a surprise.
Each death is the first.
Deaths are like lives.
No two are alike.
At every festival you hope that there may be at least one performance that will take your breath away. It will be utterly unique, so brilliantly inventive. It will open your eyes to new perceptions of art. It will entertain and amaze. It will be a rare and unforgettable experience. Cold Blood from Belgium is such a work of art. Seven unexpected and unusual deaths are presented through a hybrid of live theatre, cinema and technology. Below a large screen actors and video operators bring Thomas Gunzig’s seven deaths to life upon the screen. Toby Regbo’s sobering and ironically re-assuring narration introduces each death, the unexpected, the comical, the macabre, the erotic, the accidental, the gory.
Each death unfolds before our eyes as a series of miniature models are moved into position and a Hand Dance creates the human figure within the scene. Hand and fingers walk, dance, create Busby Berkley routines, float through space and die. A model plane crashes in a forest. Dusters and a model car with its windows open result in a blood-soaked death in a car wash. Two pairs of fingers with thimbles adroitly tap out a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers routine on a drive in screen before rows of model cars. A woman lures the unsuspecting to their grisly death before eating them. Hers is a particularly unsavoury death. Three minutes of rapture is all a man had before choking to death on a pole dancer’s bra clasp. And the climax to this chronicle of different deaths is the Space Odyssey death of floating finger astronauts to the sound of Ground Patrol to Major Tom.
In wonder, we watch the scenes unfold, our eyes darting from the company working their magic in real life to the image upon the screen. All the while the all-knowing narrator recounts with matter of fact impartiality the fates of the unfortunate. It is not that we die that matters. It is how we die, And for that there can be no control, whether it be in a plane crash, a car wash, or choked by a bra clasp, or struck by a fatal allergy to hospital potatoes or in a spaceship after that last regrettable argument with no kiss goodbye.
In this ingenious invention Death has no sting. Directors Jaco Van Dormael and Michele Anne De Mey have conceived an exceptional live theatre cinema experience, starring dancing hands and fingers and an exquisite cast of model sets and pieces. Thomas Gunzig’s text lulls us into a false sense of our immunity to Death. That happens to other people. We can laugh and cry at the manner of the deaths in Cold Blood. How will we face our own?
Cold Blood takes the audience on a journey that transcends expectation. Its construct is intricately planned, its design astounding in its manifestation and we are transfixed by the wizardry of the hand dance. Brilliantly conceived, superbly executed and utterly unique, Cold Blood takes the collaboration between cinema and theatre to a whole new level. It is little wonder that this highly imaginative and entertaining show should take the prize as a hot Adelaide Festival favourite.