Review: "I’ll sell the house in which I can live no more"

Is it possible to depict the life of man in one hour without words? Evidently it is, given that Teatr KTO accomplishes this  feat in their performance of ?I?ll Sell the House in Which I Can Live No More??The theater company Teatr KTO has a long tradition in art-theater. It was established in 1985 by a group of graduates from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Their interest in street theater was rooted in medieval Polish theater with its elements of mime, clowning, pyrotechnics and spectacle. The company has earned its considerable reputation with street performances such as ?Paradis? (1983), ?Don Giovanni? (1987) and ?Installation I ? Sutor? (1999). They successfully performed their shows in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine. Teatr KTO performances have been successful abroad because its foundation lays in playing without words ? through visual elements; they experiment with fire theater, pantomimic actors? play and music. Performances aren?t based on dramatic text ? they are inspired by novel and biographical texts from around the world or come from improvisation on chosen themes.?I?ll Sell the House in Which I Can Live No More?? is one of the group?s most popular performances. This non-speaking performance was showed in many countries (form Bratislava to New York) with great success and made a big splash at the Edinburgh festival in 2005. Though it premiered in 2003, the Polish theaters continue to fill for their every show.  The performance begins upon arriving at the theater. Actors greet theirs guests, give them instruction: cloakroom on the left, toilets on right… In one room, something like a waiting lounge, spectators are given coupons for beer to drink after the performance. Halls are narrow and old. The walls are covered with old, black-and-white photographs and sheets of paper with sentences handwritten in black ink from Hrabal?s books. Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, (1914 ? 1997) author of acclaimed novels ?I Served the King of England? and ?Closely Watched Trains,? is the performance?s patron. The magic and grotesque world of his novels and life inspired the creation of this presentation. When spectators enter the theater they see a performance of the most important moments in human life: birth, first communion, marriage and death. Sequences concerning stages of life are interweaved with the sound of a moving train suggesting that the play is a journey of human existence. The actors? meaning is lucid not through words but rather through the clarity of their body language. They speak using facial expressions and gestures. Their movements are rhythmical and expressive, harmonizing with old 50s era music ? the choreography looks like perfection.Between scenes the lights dim and a man (Marcin Popczynski) comes out with a ?music machine? ? a sort of diorama with a backdrop of famous European cities. He requests the audience for music in the language of one of the countries on his diorama backdrop. Then he dances, shows his kitschy machine, drinks and cracks jokes. He looks like a clown but without the usual funny costume, only wearing an old, brown coat.Scenery and costumes (designed by Joanna Jasko-Srokaand and Zofia de Ines respectively) are composed of black-and-white tones creating momentary impressions of old silent movies. The set includes a few big, gray suitcases, which, depending on different configurations, make a house, station or church. The suitcases are also reminders of the constant journey in human life. This performance is amusing in its grotesque, overtly expressive theatrical acting ? when characters are sad they cry blowing their noses with enormous scarves. When angry they run trying to beat someone, when happy they dance. The acting is also a little sentimental and reflective at times. In the first scene, the cast comes onstage with one suitcase each, sit and wait. They appear not to know each other. In the second scene they become family and friends but the truth reveals that everyone inevitably travels alone to an inevitable, sole certain station ? death.     The only one problem of this performance is its predictability. The first two sequences foretell what happens later. The manner of presenting the situation is typical and cliche. Then again, maybe this is key to making a show without words understandable. Perhaps it also reflects on the predictability and conventionality of our lives.     

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