Brussels is a living language melting pot; you have your staple French, the ubiquitous English, sporadic Dutch, some German, some more Arabic and a smattering of Spanish here and there. There is something for everyone, you could say. I happen to speak several of the above languages but sadly lack the – possibly most important – ability to converse, understand and get around in French. And so do many other inhabitants of this multilingual city. However, this should not deter anyone from enjoying Francophone culture, which is to be found everywhere. Not being able to speak the language shouldn’t mean missing out on Sartre, or not dreaming away at Jacques Brel, enjoying your Moules et Frites or, in this case, attending some French theatre.
To say you’re going to sit through a four hour rendition of French Hamlet may be stretching it, but a short and sweet performance like Compagnie du Scopitone’s “Un Cas Barré” – performing this week at La Vénerie – is a perfect match. Advertised as ‘Le Spectacle: this way’ in the foyer, “Un Cas Barré” is a cabaret-like show filled with songs, some of which in English and Spanish, physical acting, music and more or less a happy ending. Scopitone is a theatre group which seems to specialize, and which obviously delights, in this interdisciplinary form of theatre. With a boat-load of energy they crawl into the skins of all sorts of characters, feel at home in a surreal setting and walk around in carnivalesque make up and costume. A formula that works wonders on the eyes, but also feels like a ‘whole’ from the start.
The story centers around Mathilda who tragically dies right at the start of the show. Mathilda had always wanted to be in the spotlight, but sadly never made it anywhere. We come to know about her past, her present, her wishes, her fears and her dreams through a series of meetings, musical pieces and revelations. A musical cleansing for Mathilda’s spirit, as it were.
Without ever really understanding what is going on, theatre can become a bit of a drag. However, “Un Cas Barré” managed to keep this English speaker entertained from start to finish. The songs were original and well sung, the plot perhaps a little higgeldy-piggeldy and confusing (even after having been explained by a French speaker) but the acting was spot on, energetic and alive. All in all, the Scopitone troupe provided a welcome introduction to theatre in French, at the charming La Venerie in Watermael-Boitsfort. This definitely tastes like more.
More information on the Compagnie du Scopitone here.