As we enter the theatre, we see a woman sprawled up against the wall, looking miserable. There are some wires around her so we think she might be one of the artists. She is looking at all the spectators as they come in, not shying away from eye contact.
The theatre at Schauspielhause is yet again a black box.
No dancer comes at the appointed time. Instead we face a tripartite image. From left to right: a panel written over English, the image of the artist pressed up against the wall, a panel written over in German:
The initial message is this:
hey dude i have
talent, i’m just here
waiting for god
The artist bends over to each panel to change the writing gradually. Finally the message is that she wishes Robyn would finish her costume so she could start the show.
After about seven minutes, she finally rises and comes into the darkened theatre via the spectator entrance. The centre screen is a projection of her face and carnations she is carrying from the camera in her own hands. The left and right screens show one feet as she walks, there is a technician carrying each little web camera on both sides of her. Mantero is lit by a yellow projector from the wings. The music is some kind of rising electronic fugue.
At this point, our prospects for the evening look good. Multimedia projection, live performance. Funny cryptic scrawlings. A suggestion of playful irony…
Halfway down the stairs, Vera Mantero breaks character and shouts out, “Put the houselights up.” The houselights finally come up. And there she is in some strange black wool dress with an enormous collar. There are still knitting needles at the bottom to indicate its unfinished status.
She continues, I can’t do this really I can’t do this. It’s no good. I’m really sorry I don’t understand what I’m doing, I’m having a lot of trouble with my body. When I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t really do it.
Fine. Apparently Vera Mantero wanted to do something political about homeless people and Robyn Orlin wanted to do something about Portugal. But for Vera Mantero this doesn’t work:
I’m not into nationality, I’m into people.
At this point we are lost. The dance show is over. A comic monologue has begun.
She takes her carnations and sticks them in the mouths of three spectatators in the front row. Each specator’s image is projected by one of the webcams. She makes the carnations line up in their mouths. Apparently this was part of the Portugal theme.
Very long carnations, very short revolution.
Vera Mantero has mixed feelings about flowers. In Portugal there are all these Indian guys wandering around at night. They target couples, usually men. Why do people need flowers as an affirmation of affection?
The flowers are put away. Vera Mantero asks for cigarettes and receives them from the balcony. She leaves the theatre for ten minutes at a time and we can only hear her monologue.
Mantero’s constant stream-of-consciousness rambling in her New York accent comes across as a female Woody Allen persona. This happens two or three times. The whole performance becomes a blur of words, stand-up comedy for Vera Mantero junkies.
The dress somehow manages to become green and yellow before being shed altogether. There is a very short dance sequence at the end as Mantero dances her way out of the dress with a pink lit reindeer hat on her head.
The topless Mantero leaves the theatre.
End of the show.
This wasn’t dance. Not even sure it was theatre. It was stand-up comedy built-up on personality. If Vera Mantero was not a very strong performer, the piece would have been a total and utter failure. Painlful.
Thanks to her rather skillful delivery, it more or less works for what it is. But it has absolutely nothing to do with dance.
My companion for the show – an excellent modern dancer in her own right and a generous spirit – felt that Vera Mantero’s ramblings and her difficulty in some direct way touched the homeless issue. Homeless people are confused and talk non-stop, she suggested, as Vera Mantero’s character does.
But for the moment homeless people don’t do a lot with webcams.
Meta-theatre in all its tedium. Next time Vera Mantero has trouble pulling her show together I hope she and her creative partners find a more original trope than a monologue on the impossibility of creating the show. Or they could just cancel the show until inspiration comes.