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Cafe Villon 28 November 2017

Feedback from an audience member...


On 28 November 2017, NWTC hosted another edition of Café Villon for members and non-members alike. This evening was particularly special, however, given that it marked the end of the LEAPA playwriting competition launched earlier that year: two of the winning entries were to be brought to life after some workshopping and rehearsing. And to make sure that nobody snuck out in the middle of the evening, a ‘surprise’ was promised for the end of the evening.

The first play to be presented, a short and reflective but still emotionally charged piece, kept the audience's attention by slowly drip-feeding us little details about the life of the protagonist, Frank, as he painstakingly drafted his own obituary (an original premise by all accounts). A particularly interesting feature was the contrast between Frank’s regretful, guilt-ridden account of his own life and the more forgiving, optimistic view of that life taken by his son, who rounded off the play by addressing the audience at Frank’s funeral. This deliberate inconsistency gave the audience plenty of food for thought in the discussion that followed the presentation of the play, as everyone had believed and understood a slightly different version of events: which of the characters was telling the truth - if either - or did the writer want to leave us in doubt? The text could be trimmed in places and certain subtleties might better have been left to the imagination (by the time Frank openly stated that he was writing his own obituary, for example, most of the audience had already figured out this out for themselves). Nonetheless, the play maintained a sense of intrigue throughout, and the fact that the play was written by a non-native speaker made it all the more impressive: the text was littered with clever little wordplays: ‘Frank was a frank man…’. For those who are interested in the creative process behind playwriting, here's a little secret: the author of the play may soon be featuring in a short episode of the Luxembourgish documentary series Routwäissgro...

 The second piece to be presented was a selection of extracts from a much longer play: Friction, in which the history of the dysfunctional relationship between a soldier and his wheelchair-bound father is explored through dialogue. As with the first play presented, the audience was left guessing at the truth behind the mysterious matter causing the 'friction' in their relationship (in this case, the death of the younger character's mother - the older character's wife - decades before), all while the son tried to trick, wheedle and frighten details of the real sequence of events out of his father. The tension between the two characters was palpable in the extracts presented from the very beginning: the tone was set in the first scene with the unconvincing formalities of two people who would rather not be meeting in the first place, and this tension quickly escalated as the younger character attempted to intimidate his father by various, increasingly dangerous means (and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats). The dialogue was perhaps excessively long in places, very often crossing over into long monologues, which left the two actors in the difficult position of having to find ways of reacting silently to long stretches of text while their counterpart waxed lyrical. Nonetheless, it was full of intrigue and gave the audience plenty to ruminate about, touching upon diverse subjects such as family tragedy, secrecy and resentment.

John Brigg’s introduction to the end-of-evening surprise as presentation without a storyline to be experienced as a group – a fairly intimidating prospect for all, if truth be told – turned out to be a fairly accurate description. Without plot or agenda, the comings and goings of countless, anonymous personnages – all played by a group of just 4 performers in the middle of the room – offered a wordless account of the global human experience: disparate but widely familiar themes such as happiness, loneliness, love, poverty, play and conflict were touched upon through simple re-enactments of the details of daily life, from early childhood to old age and death. The 'universal' aspect of this exploratory activity was magnified through the use of as many different languages as the group could cover between them: sliding effortlessly between English, French, Luxembourgish, Russian and other languages, the ‘cast’ gave all their ‘characters’ one thing in common: a sense of being really human.

New World Theatre Club Luxembourg