Els van Steenberghe wrote a review about L'Eléphant Perdu for Knack. The original article can be found here.
A tea thriller
What appears to be a cozy tea party, in Oortocht's 'L'éléphant perdu' , turns into a crazy horror performance with lonely, surreal glow.
Photo: Benoit Linder
Have you ever considered that under the table where you enjoy a nice dinner, a corpse can be hidden? The brand new Ghent theater collective Oortocht does. This pleasantly disturbed gang has an eye for the melancholic and surreal. In that order.
A few months ago, this resulted in the debut performance and exhibition Slaks/Sporen in which Marieke Breyne, Brecht Hermans and Isabelle Stockmans (together Oortocht) each crawled into a huge snail shell made from ecological materials and thus Moved over the coastline for 16 hours. The snail shells are currently decaying along the coast. This process will produce a photo exhibition.
Arousing a maximum of disruptive emotions in the public with as few and as ecologically possible means as possible: that is what Oortocht is all about. In Snails / Traces they paid tribute to the beauty of slowness. In L'éléphant perdu they go in a radically different direction. Although melancholy remains an important starting point. You attend the performance with only ten spectators at the same time. We only reveal the opening image: a man sits on a chair in his living room, wringing his hands, staring at the floor. Suddenly that ground starts to move and a zombie-like woman appears…. Finally the man welcomes us to his room. What follows is an almost frightening 'tea party' in which the host whispers, screams, freezes, corpses dangle from the ceiling, striptease artists sneak around the house and one bizarre story after another is told. While you listen in a mask and don't know what to think.
This fascinating flow of images is an ode to surrealism. Or rather: the stream of images portrays how loneliness can make people's imagination run wild. You step into the sweltering reality of a lonely fantasist (or psychopath?). Hermans puts on a convincing performance as host/psychopath. Although it is a pity that he renounces that role at the end of the performance because he is literally dragged along by his dream images. As a result, the performance (although total experience is a better word) ends a bit on a minor note. You leave the room in dismay. You experienced something unique but also remained a bit hungry. Because not all images are equally strong (and layered).
But L'élephant perdu does make you very curious about more Oortocht. The performance is an experience and, despite those 'teething problems', betrays an unbridled fantasy, guts and ability to force spectators beyond the limit of understanding by means of surreal images (with a melancholy layer of varnish). Straight into the black hole of wonder, stillness and reflection. Before you leave the room, secretly peep under the table. You never know.