‘Isabella’ takes a trip through the mind

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‘Isabella’ takes a trip through the mind

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A scene from “Isabella’s Room.” Provided by the organizer

A white stage filled with African artifacts is the setting where Isabella begins a journey through memory in the play, “Isabella’s Room.” As the story unfolds, the artifacts reveal the secret surrounding her birth and her motive for going to Africa. The actors speak, dance and sing in a combination that confounds all genres. For the Needcompany of Belgium, which is putting on the play, each artistic medium carries equal weight.
Jan Lauwers, 50, the founder and director of the company, trained in art but did not study drama. He said in an interview that everything he uses, whether it is dance or song, is at its core an artform and can therefore be used in a play. Lauwers himself appears in the drama wearing a white suit and speaking with a Flemish accent. Eight dancers describe and embody Isabella’s memories.
Lauwers wrote and produced the piece inspired by 5,800 African artifacts and craft pieces he inherited from his father. Some of these artifacts are used on stage to decorate Isabella’s room.
“Isabella’s Room” premiered at the Avignon Festival in 2004 and has been performed around the world.
Since Lauwers founded Needcompany in 1985, he has produced such works as “Need to Know,” “Images of Affection,” “Cava” and “Snakesong Trilogy.” The company’s productions have been staged in major performance festivals and arenas, including the Lyon Dance Biennale, the Im Pulse Tanz in Vienna and the Theatre de la Ville in Paris.
Isabella, played by Viviane De Myunck, is blind, 94 years old and can see what she remembers using a camera implanted in her brain. The play begins with her memory of being an orphan. She is later adopted by a lighthouse keeper, Arthur, and his wife, Anna, who are drunk most of the time. One day they tell her that her biological father is a desert prince. Later she is given a photograph of a man with an address in Paris written on the back and a letter addressed to her by her father. She goes to the address in Paris and finds an apartment that belongs to her. It is filled with thousands of articles and books from Africa. From here, the story takes a series of turns and twists. The piece starts and ends with a signature choral song by the company, “We Just Go On and On and On,” which seems to say that life continues despite a catalogue of tragedies, such as those Isabella experiences.


“Isabella’s Room” will be staged at LG Arts Center at 8 p.m. on March 30, 6 p.m. on March 31 and 4 p.m. on April 1. It will be performed in English and French with Korean subtitles. Ticket prices are 30,000 won to 70,000 won. LG Arts Center can be reached from exit No. 7 at Yeoksam station on line No. 2.


By Limb Jae-un Staff Writer [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]
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