Bambie’s two performers aren’t taking any chances in Bambie C (seen September 23 at Frascati), at least, social distancing wise. Keeping a five foot distance isn’t enough in this mime show which features some strong visual finds but is also a bit dialogue-heavy.
At the start of the show, the two (Jochem Stavenuiter and Paul van der Laan) are almost fifty feet apart. They are sitting up in the rafters of the studio at Frascati 2, while the audience is sitting on the ground floor, looking up. It’s an evocative starting point for a piece about Corona and the social isolation the pandemic caused during the first few lockdown months. Separated from each other, each in their own private space, they are playing records (two different versions of Ne Me Quitte Pas) in the semi-dark. The space between them is a chasm they can’t traverse.
Their main line of communication is the phone. In their conversations – spoken in Dutch through microphones – they wax nostalgic about the taste of cheese, and talk about the inexplicable pull of a drafty door (which may or may not be an allegory for a beckoning death). ‘What are you doing?’ Van der Laan wants to know. ‘I’m looking for words.’ ‘Can you find them?’ ‘Some.’ They also communicate through the use of pulleys, stretched from one side of the studio to the other. Using this system as a primitive form of What’s App, they communicate by pegging words on the line and pulling them across, one symbol at a time. ‘I’ve got it!’ Van der Laan signals. ‘What?’ ‘It.’ (Paul van der Laan contracted COVID-19 just before rehearsals started).
photos: Ben van Duin
Bambie C is pretty dialogue-dependent for a Bambie show, which, though understandable in context, is still a bit of a shame. The group excels at physical theatre, for instance when Stavenuiter tries to water a plastic fern down on the lower floor by using the pulleys. Or when he descends to ground level and slowly shuffles across the floor, trying to shove as many products – an orange, a water bottle – inside a miniature shopping cart. When Van der Laan and Stavenuiter attempt to play frisbee from opposite sides of the studio, it could easily have been a scene from the popular children’s television show Pat & Mat (known here as Buurman en Buurman).
Entertaining as it is, and it is, Bambie C never really seems to go anywhere. On the other hand, this does make it a perfect encapsulation of the Corona lockdown limbo.