Playing as part of Brighton Fringe’s Dutch Season, WATCHING, ceci n’est pas de deux is a haunting mix of puppetry and dance.
Designed and created by dancer / puppeteer Ester Natzijl, who originally performed it, it’s a disconcerting piece, a duet by only one person. The life-size puppet – a creepily expressive Golem-like creature – seems unsettlingly alive. Naked, it is both sexless and obscene: fingers quiver, limbs twitch, and as performer Esmee van Liere slides her hand inside it, it seems almost aware of its own violation.
Billed as a story about ‘a woman faced with her fears and desires’, it skilfully sketches both sides of that equation. Sometimes the puppet seems tender, sometimes aggressive – at times their interaction seems like affection, at other times assault. The pair scrabble and writhe across the bare stage, and occasionally the performance descends into outright violence: biting and scratching, van Liere trying to escape the thing she has bound herself to. They are at once parasite and host, and two symbiotic entities. They are lovers, they are enemies; both in turn play victim and aggressor.
At less than an hour long, it’s a slight thing that would struggle to sustain a longer running time – with no discernible narrative, and against a bleak soundtrack by Ryoji Ikeda and Richie Hawtin that quickly grates (only a burst of Tchaikovsky providing some brief relief). But it’s also properly unsettling. Natzijl’s puppet is exquisitely made and expertly manipulated by a sinuous van Liere – and the combination creates an experience that lingers long after the performance is over.
WATCHING, Ceci n’est pas de deus is on at the Brighton Fringe until 2nd June 2017. Click here for more details.