Reviews Brighton Published 3 June 2017

Review: WATCHING, Ceci n’est pas de deux at the Brighton Fringe

31 May – 2 June 2017

Properly unsettling: Tracey Sinclair reviews Ester Natzijl’s disconcerting work at the Brighton Fringe.

Tracey Sinclair
WATCHING at the Brighton Fringe. Photo: Peter Williams.

WATCHING at the Brighton Fringe. Photo: Peter Williams.

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.


Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

Review: WATCHING, Ceci n’est pas de deux at the Brighton Fringe Show Info

Choreography by Ester Natzijl

Cast includes Esmee van Liere



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