“In CONVERSATIONS (at the end of the world) Verdonck masterfully walks the tightrope between indifference and cruelty.”
“In these long, silent moments, the boundary between theatre and visual art evaporates and you are confronted with hushed tableaus that are disconcertingly beautiful.”
In CONVERSATIONS (at the end of the world) we see five figures in a terminal situation. They find themselves in an empty theatre. The only thing that they have is their body and the time that is left to them. Together they constitute a portrait of mankind in the twentieth century, waiting for the unavoidable catastrophe that is to come. They talk to one another, tell stories, perform a dance and listen to music. Texts by the Russian writer Daniil Charms make up the core, and these are supplemented by conversations that Charms had with his artistic peers.
Kris Verdonck’s work gets under your skin, it asks something of you, and it never leaves you unmoved. CONVERSATIONS (at the end of the world) is performed by the leading actors José Kuijpers, Jan Steen, Johan Leysen, Jeroen Van der Ven and the renowned pianist Marino Formenti.
From the jury report:
The spectacular set of CONVERSATIONS (at the end of the world) is the work of a visual artist: a landscape of black snow, or rather the ashes of an erupting volcano or the black rain unleashed after a nuclear disaster. It is a very powerful image, even if it is in no hurry to divulge its meaning. And then mid-way through the show sluices of dust open and eventually swallow up the four actors and the pianist. The end of the world?
In this abstract space Kris Verdonck has them deliver with great precision texts by Daniil Kharms, an early Soviet-era surrealist and absurdist poet, writer and dramatist, which are full of absurd logic, jokes and random violence. Johan Leysen is unfaltering in his sober and arresting delivery, but he finds his match in Jeroen Van der Ven who provides his own colour. Jan Steen, the surprise of the show, adds a layer of exuberant imagery to the portrait. José Kuijpers seamlessly completes that male trio.
Often their interventions are no more than little anecdotes devoid of logic or purpose: texts which suddenly break off, pointless jokes, strange incursions. Every line is a joy, a linguistic gem from which fanciful ideas tumble. But those philosophical thoughts invariably have a cruel background, though one dispelled by the humour. And all this is accompanied by the Italian keyboard wizard Marino Formenti, who lets rip like a musician possessed. He plays Bach/Busoni and after that a phenomenal Ravel’s La Valse, and rounds off with a thumping John Cage.
In CONVERSATIONS (at the end of the world) Verdonck masterfully walks the tightrope between indifference and cruelty. He takes us to a salon where everyone has his own, uncompromising interpretation of things and people. There we listen to absurd stories verging on Nothingness, in a universe without compassion where all that is left is a rather surprised smile. And the despairing spectator? He can only think: if we laugh, there may still be hope.