The unfathomable witnesses
They are not angels, nor demons. They are ghostly and eternal traces that occasionally come out of the darkness to observe our incomplete and mortal humanity. No constraints tie them down, neither does any terrestrial ritual. The free strangeness they are made of establishes the link between the world and nothingness. The new creation by Patrick Bonté and Nicole Mossoux greatly exceeds the frontiers of contemporary dance to flirt with the disquieted and multiple lines of performance art. Everything is unwonted, captivating and resolutely dark. Les Arrière-Mondes is a macabre and fascinating dance of indisputable shadowy beauty.
The Company’s work has always resided on the outer edge between dance, theatre and performance. This time, the frontier is trespassed as by a logical continuity sharpened from creation to creation. A continuity that advances more and more towards unknown territories, opening new paths. The direction to this enigmatic piece leaves its spectators the freedom to fully interpret it according to their feelings and experience of it. Some will understand it as ill-fated poetry, others as a mystical or metaphysical ode to authorities ruling over mankind. The fact remains, however, that the Company once again manages to create a language specifically suited to the intention behind the production. It is resolutely contemporary and disconcerting.
From the outset presiding over the harsh atmosphere, the musical composition by Thomas Turine is built from jolts and fractured noises over a long crackling sound from old vinyl records on a loop. Wiry spectres appear from the end of their corridors, all partitioned, with no possible contact. Their bodies transfixed by broken movements, actions in which chaos, repetition and disconcertingly sensual flows get muddled up. One shudders on several occasions from surprise, awe or hypnosis. The superb costumes by Jackye Fauconnier favour the characters’ metamorphoses all the while underlining the dryness of the performers’ muscles. Their nakedness is never far off. The improbable wigs seem to come from forgotten times, baroque, medieval and modern at once. We get to discover an entire iconography of beings that exist only in the slits between time, space and our captivated imagination. One hears Eraserhead, thinks of Francis Bacon’s Pope, of Nightbreed by Clive Barker or of Pinhead in Hellraiser.
In April 2020, as rehearsals were supposed to be in full swing and as the pandemic was acquainting us with new sanitary measures, Patrick Bonté and Nicole Mossoux decided to change the scenography so dancers could keep their distances from each other. Not only did the stage set-up become different, but the stakes did too. The constraint of impossible interactions forced the production to adopt and respond to strict codes. This contrived restrain pushed them to find solutions, to change the language these newly solitary bodies were speaking. The research they conducted was a commanding one, with no half measures. The result is a radical performance where tension is palpable from the first to the very last second.
Les Arrière-Mondes is a baffling and uncompromising creation that leads us into unknown places where we are left to face up to our feelings directly. The experience feels like a journey into a timeless world, fantastic and macabre, that holds the spectator in constant fascination. It is impossible to take your eyes away. That’s how much this strange beauty snatches you, hypnotises you, sending down your spine shocks of dread and amazement. A masterpiece.
Jean-Jacques Goffinon, Point Culture / June 2021
At the confines of « Les Arrière-Mondes »: out of alignment figures in parallel choreography
(…) Les Arrière-Mondes is the story of a reflection about the fickleness of beings, the continuity of their doubts and torments, the eternal return. It is the story of an imposed rupture, of vertiginous and unremitting uncertainty, of an assented, but no less radical, adaptation1 (...). As the soundscape is filling up with a crackling of haunted murmurs, six figures emerge from the deep. Their parallel paths – six hallways veiled in black, in a scenography by Simon Siegmann – by turns revealing then engulfing them in a back and forth movement that tears them away from the past to thrust them out to meet with the contemporary world, and back (…).
From straight lines, their trajectories will move towards fits and starts, sinuosity, soaking in the unforeseen. The characters, with their faces lengthened with high foreheads and their hair of unlikely geometry, in spite of being compelled to act without seeing each other, will look for each other, tracking the other within themselves in an unregenerate and cavernous quest. Beyond gender and blurred features, identities take shape and assert themselves, just as fleeting as they are intense. Unexpected angles shatter the straight lines. The bodies are knocked out of alignment, divided into two, dismembered. Their presences become the spectres as much as the Vestals of a nightmare grounded in reality. The real, as heckling as it was, is precisely what has forged the diversions and incongruities of this creation. It is also that through which one deciphers the enigma behind Les Arrière-Mondes. Wearing costumes by Jackye Fauconnier, behind the masks, wigs and make-up created by Rebecca Florès-Martinez, the six performers (four of whom collaborate for the first time with the company) powerfully and strangely inhabit this singular procession: Dorian Chavez, Taylor Lecocq, Colline Libon, Lenka Luptakova, Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe. The original music by Thomas Turine sheathes it with textures, rhythms and litanies that join up with the first of ingredients, evanescent and imperious: time, the time that carries in its wake the attempt and the turmoil.
1 Adaptation to the sanitary measures in place at the time of the beginning of the Covid-pandemic.
Marie Baudet, La Libre / June 2021
A dance of darkness
They appear from the deepest obscurity, each evolving in their own oblong perimeter, their faces first hidden in the shadows, their grotesque figures progressively being unveiled. They look like they are coming straight out of Christ Carrying the Cross, attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, or out of portraits by Quentin Metsys. As they go back and forth incessantly, they all take off their attire and are left bold, wearing only a dirty white chemise. It is not so much the Renaissance we are reminded of anymore, but of the more recent ghosts of the sick locked up in psychiatry wards. The back-worlds of the title slowly leave their original meaning of the hereafter or parallel worlds behind to refer to our inner realms and sleeping madness instead.
The double, a recurring theme in the duo’s work, is present once again through the use of masks and unsettling illusions (those two women, of whom we know that they are two, but whom we see become one, like a spider). Twins in short trousers echo the scary twin sisters in the hallways of the Overlook hotel in Kubrick’s Shining. Insanity’s lurking at every corner…
Worrisome and sensual, the six creatures – neither male, nor female - join in a deft and spellbinding finale (…) before lightning strikes the end of the performance.
Estelle Spoto, Focus Vif / June 2021
« Les Arrière-Mondes » or the ghosts of humanity
By integrating into their latest creation a constraint born with the pandemic, the Mossoux-Bonté Company delivers a fascinating production that could not be more timeless.
They appear slowly, without a sound, as if they were escaping from an endless night: six characters seeking their history, six silhouettes of which one at first only distinguishes the moving and slightly blurred contours. They hardly move, tremble, stumble sometimes, make a motion, hold it and let it escape again … In only a few minutes, the new production by Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté grasps its audience and leads them into a strange and mysterious universe where the six figures spectators are faced with seem – well – faceless or devoid of personality. They become agitated to no avail and sometimes seem astonished by their own presence, both visible and unreachable, like spectres who would instantly vanish did we try and touch them.
Yet, these undefinable, almost interchangeable, beings gradually start to unmask each other. Each finds its own colour, movement vocabulary, hidden memories that crop up from the depths of time. As it is often the case with Mossoux-Bonté, Les Arrière-Mondes intertwines the fantastic with the everyday, the tragic and the grotesque, humour with dread, the poetic and the trivial (…).
By turning today’s restrictions into a central element of the show, Les Arrière-Mondes invite us to travel through time and the human condition, which more than ever awakens innumerable questions about the here and now.
Jean-Marie Wynants, Le Soir / June 2021
They appear one after the other or side by side in short white or long black robes, with bald heads or long flowing curls, mask-like or grimacing faces - even screaming mouths - and do not say a single word.
And yet they characterise or embody what could take place in our nightly nightmares or during the day in totally overheated worlds of thoughts and feelings. (...) It is as if Les Arrière-Mondes dives into the - just kept under wraps - emotional and mental worlds of the human species and finds penetrating images for their fears, doubts and premonitions. (...)
Shakespeare's "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy" also flits through the visually powerful, original production, which lives from the tremendous versatility of the six great performers (...). And which digs its way irresistibly and iconographically into one's own and the collective memory, exerting a strange fascination in the process.
Astrid Priebs-Tröger, Textur / October 2022
Lost beings, damned of history between, between parade and procession on a journey through the night (...). In the process, they perform a macabre dance of fascinating beauty. This is a kind of metaphysical sarabande, with figurative creations reminiscent of creatures by Hieronymus Bosch or Francis Bacon. This world and the next, reality and fiction, theatre and dance merge into one another, creating images of carnivalesque, eerie strangeness and baroque-dark beauty. An enigma like our present.
Frank Starke, Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung / October 2022
Panopticon of the paranormal
(...) From where it is darkest, six figures creep forward, ghostly white. They wear women's garments and wigs from past eras and appear as if centuries of sleep have made their bones stiff. (...) It begins in a minimalist, uncommonly virtuosic way; over a longer period of time, a change can only be discerned if one looks very closely. The sound blasts hints of horror onto the stage. Wind. Whispers. The crackling of records. Dogs howling.
The black magic of theatre
There are also other references to horror films: the sadistic siblings, the grimace hidden under black hair, the pale beauty (...). They all appear side by side (a)nd are always sucked back into the black: no one can escape the darkness. Soon the seemingly rickety bodies pulsate with desire. Arms, legs, bellies offer themselves. Everything about Les Arrière-Mondes seeks contact with its counterpart: us. Dramatically gaping mouths form silent messages. What do they want to say? One would like to know (...). If it weren't so incredibly precisely choreographed, it would have something of a monstrous fashion show. But (...) you really do feel that pleasant shiver: if they really reached out to us? In these moments, the theatre performed its black magic.
Lena Schneider, Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten / October 2022
They dance in the chaos of hedonistic suffering, leading us to linear constellations and parallel movements that fall into each other like chain reactions (...). We carry historical wounds in the folds of our skin. Perhaps the art lies in making the pleasure of this suffering palpable. To accept the painful as part of our existence and to actively live through it. The characters are also repeatedly pulled backwards in the corridors into the vortex of illusion by a driving suction force and disappear into the darkness, into nothingness. But they always come back, changed (…).
Les Arrière-Mondes makes us experience a world that is still unknown to us, which lies dormant to the versatility of our condition and state of being. What do we do with this experience? (...) Maybe it is the opportunity to expand the dimensions of intoxication.
Anwen Sereina Ortiz, Die junge Bühne / October 2022
What strange characters! They seem to have escaped from the mists of time. For an hour they will appear and disappear, emerging metamorphosed from the depths of the stage, only to return, again and again, to be reborn in other garb. Alone, desperately alone, with no connection to anyone, trapped in spaces separated by curtains. With no clues as to why they are there, no details as to who they are, who they were, who they will be, we are at a loss to understand where these beings have come from and where they are going, or even what is going on there, before our astonished eyes (...).
Corridors of death or of time, spaces of dreams or fantasies, this production lets everyone see what they want to see. Be that as it may, these messengers seem to want to testify before us. However, at the threshold of our world, they hesitate. So their bodies speak for them. Shaking with spasms, contorted, stiff with cold or hunger, these beings have their trials pegged to their bodies. They carry on them, within them, the scars of wars, plagues and other calamities. Fallen from who knows what disaster, survivors of the worst atrocities, they go through history to call out to us. Despite their monstrous appearance, they are our brothers and sisters (...).
The project was born "out of compassion for the solitary statues that populate cemeteries and the boredom that grips them", state Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté.
The result is a frontal approach and a minimalist choreography that draws raw material from ancestral gestures and states of being. Driven by their own intentions, the dancers' movements are impulsive. Little by little, the stone becomes flesh, but without the extravagance of their baroque costumes! The costume changes take us from the court of the Sun King to the asylum. At first dishevelled, the headdresses also lose volume. Fortunately, self-mockery lends a tragicomic aspect to this dance of darkness (...).
Yet this hell is so much like our world. Are we not plunged into chaos? The afterworld, which gives its title to the show, is moreover a philosophical concept of Friedrich Nietzsche which designates the superior worlds theorized by a large number of philosophers with the aim of devaluing the here below. Must we sink into eternity to admit once and for all the absurdity of our earthly lives? What's missing from this desperate picture is the beating of an angel, if only lost among the funerary remains.
Léna Martinelli, Les Trois Coups / January 2023
Six ghostly figures slowly emerge from the darkness and move towards the audience. One wonders which era they might have escaped from, which baroque festival, which ritual, which witch's kitchen, dream world, ghost train (...).
Les Arrière-Mondes approaches [puppetry] entirely through the prism of dance and physical theatre, the actors themselves becoming puppet-like. Jackye Fauconnier's costumes and Rebecca Flores-Martinez's masks alone transform them into grotesque figures, decisively reinforced by an unorthodox, highly artificial movement vocabulary (...).
The decisive and unsolved riddle is: Which forces are at work? Invisible magic or the subconscious that opens a view into the abyss of the soul? A conscience that reacts to self-forgotten debauchery and sets limits? There are no answers, but the characters always seem to be struggling for autonomy.
Dimo Rieß, Leipziger Volkszeitung / June 2023