A crock of bull at the crack of dawn
Factual description by Henri Emmanuel Doublier
of the lighting for Rachid LAACHIR's show
A CROCK OF BULL AT THE CRACK OF DAWN.
Lighting design Emese Csornai
16/06/2023, Buda, Kortrijk
Public entrance: the space is dimly lit, and cushions are handed out at the entrance. On the stage is a huge tent that takes up almost all the space, and seems to be covered with dark fabric strips.
As we enter the tent, we can distinguish a central space with black floor, surrounded by white strips of dance marley. We can see hands moving slowly passing through the back curtain of the tent. They are dimly lit by a Pinspot, which also illuminates the red strings hanging from the center of the space.
We guess that we have to sit down in the black space, and that the performance will take place around the audience, on the white strips. Everyone is seated, the light grows brighter on the hands and the show begins.
The hands shake frantically, and we can see that they are trying to open a small box (like a pill box). The box falls... suspense, but immediately, as if by magic, another box appears and the hands shake again, until it falls, until another appears and so on exponentially until a blackout.
Is there already a hint of the red visual installation in this first interlude? I'm not sure.
The red visual installation consists of survival blankets laid on the ground outside the tent, lit by red-filtered par 64. The blankets are set in motion by fans. This installation will sometimes appear for varying lengths of time during the blacks that punctuate each scene. Three sides of the tent are lit by this installation: thanks to the transparency of the fabric, we can see the red reflections dancing on the walls of the tent, and a kind of 3D perspective is created.
It allows the space around it to exist.
In fact, the space that surrounds the tent also exists in other ways. We can feel the performer's presence between scenes, during the blacks. We can hear his movements, costume changes and props preparation. There's also the glow of the technical booth, creating a transparent halo of light on the front of the tent. Finally, the loudspeakers from which the sound environment is generated are also located outside the tent.
We soon realise that the show's dramaturgy is built on a succession of performative scenes, interspersed with black, where the red visual installation may appear with increasing prominence. This linear dramaturgy will lead us to the large-scale visual installation, scenography and lighting, the jubilant climax of the performance.
But first, let's describe the different scenes and their lighting aesthetics.
(I may have got the order wrong, or forgotten a few).
First scene: mysterious, hysterical hands. back middle. Hysterical hands, trying to open pill boxes, lit by pinspots that also light up red strings.
scene two: front right side. Rachid eats a mango and burps more and more. It's disgusting and funny. Hard lighting with two strong par 64, one from face, the second from back right.
Third scene: middle stage left. The little can empties into the big can like piss. Two strong side light (par 64).
Fourth scene: stage right middle. The masked salesman. Pathetic: Rachid wears a magnificent silver mask with silver jeweled whiskers. He seems to be trying to sell us a bone. He doesn't believe it at the end and leaves depressed. Illuminated by two strong white lights, left and right.
Fifth scene: back middle. The death of gloves. Two cans have latex gloves covering their necks. By squeezing the cans, the air inflates the gloves. He caresses his face with these swollen hands, kisses them, then, after violent lovemaking, the gloves die and water comes out like blood. In the end, he drags them, pathetic corpses, into the light of a sensitive fade to black. The main lighting was also from the left-right sidelights made of two par 64.
Sixth scene: middle stage right. Death on the hospital bed: He screams terribly and dies on a bed in the harsh light of 2 par64 sidelights.
Seventh scene: the singer Superstar!
Object hijacking: a piece of wood becomes a micro hand, red plastic for making bubbles a micro mouth. A piece of string becomes hair, a funnel a telescope. He tries to blow bubbles. It also evolves into a warrior and the warrior evolutes in a pop star. Lighting still lateral with strong par 64.
And again, and again, the same principle of lateral, strong, hard, unfiltered light, for the next dazzling scene: diarrhea!
He sits on a can in the liquid spurting out like diarrhea.
The next scene has a completely different lighting principle and heralds a change in the dramaturgy of light.
The granny and the ladder: He's dressed in a big dress red in front and a blue behind. Two battery-powered lights are inside the dress, one in front and one behind. He trembles as he tries to climb the ladder, dimly lit by the battery lamps.
Dracula, the next scene, returns to the lighting principle of the first scene, i.e. a Pinspot. Rachid stands at the front left corner of the tent. He's wearing black lipstick make-up, screaming and grimacing against a powerful, frightening soundscape of filtered, chilling voices. The light is a stroboscopic crescendo of pinspot. Scary stuff!
Then, the final scene: the frightening Performers have gone to manipulate the giant tent roof, which descends on the audience and breathes like a monstrous organism, layering, ingesting. The light then develops organically and subtly on a colourful palette of green, yellow and, finally red, licking the fabric drapes, bringing its transparency and brilliance to life as it breathes and oppresses. It appears to be a play with 2 kW placed above the tent, surrounding it by the right choice of angle.
The dramaturgy of light accompanies the dramaturgy of the writing and gives rhythm to the show.
The main stage lighting concept with two par 64 unfiltered, creates a powerful light on the performer. This hard light sculpts his face with sharp shadows. This reminded me of images from German expressionist films, reinforcing the drama of this wordless character, this contemporary Charlot in a kappa tracksuit, who shits on the world as we free ourselves from our shackles, who shows us death as the enjoyment of a strong brutal sexual act, where the sweetness of the mango makes us burp, where the warrior becomes Madonna, or Dracula ingests us and perhaps gives birth to us. The Pinspot at the beginning, illuminating the bodiless hands, finds its resolution in the last scene, illuminating Dracula with that pertinent strobe movement.
During the blacks that punctuate each scene, the red visual installation announces the color on which we will end the show, red, which will shine through the roof of the tent and slowly fade, leaving us in a bluish black of retinal persistence, blue being the only primary color not used, our brain recreates it at the end and we then find the whole color spectrum.
The loop is complete, and we return to our bodies with a round of applause.
Concept, performance, set and costume: Rachid Laarchir
Dramaturgic assistance: Amelia Malfait
Music: Stef Heeren
Lighting: Emese Csornai