Review: En avant, marche! (NTGent & les ballets C de la B)

Photo from "En avant, marche!"“Fearless” Luminato show takes to the Toronto stage

It was a huge pleasure to attend En avant, marche!, co-produced by NTGent & les ballets C de la B and presented by Luminato. This wonderfully entertaining multidisciplinary show filled the stage at the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts with music, dance, and heart. With four actor-performers, seven Belgian musicians, and a brass band, there was never a dull moment.

The show centers around a musician (Wim Opbrouck) whose cancer diagnosis has forced him to trade his beloved trombone for a pair of cymbals. Far from being melancholy, however, En avant, marche! ricochets joyously from one feeling to another: it is at times funny, bizarre, profound, raunchy, and filled with visual and musical delights.

En avant, marche! features a wonderful collaboration by co-directors Frank Van Laecke and Alain Platel, who is also the artistic director of les ballets C de la B, with composer and musical director Steven Prengels. My friend Anya and I also greatly enjoyed the performance of the Weston Silver Band, an award-winning brass band from Toronto.

Though the performers are uniformly excellent, the standout performance belongs to Opbrouck. From his effortful, weary in-character shuffle to his exuberant addresses to the audience, he had me completely won over with his skillful acting and zest for the stage.

There were many additional moments that deserve highlighting. Performers Chris Thys and Griet Debacker are terrific as gold-sequin-clad marjorettes, twice moving Anya to tears with their more poignant moments. I particularly enjoyed the pas de deux performed by Opbrouck and supremely talented dancer Hendrik Lebon, whose acrobatics had me in awe. Finally, it was hilarious to watch drummer Witse Lemmens be dragged off the stage while frantically drumming on anything within reach, including Lebon’s epaulettes.

Although En avant, marche! is quite bizarre at times — I’m not quite sure why Thys wants to catch Opbrouck’s plume of spit and water in her mouth — I loved its fearless mixture of disciplines and languages alike. The dialogue is given in English, French, Italian, and German, with occasional (but not constant) English surtitles. The result is a passionate multidisciplinary and multilingual outpouring where the feelings, if not the words, always come through.

In the end, music triumphs over all. As Opbrouck’s character implores the musicians, “Play! Play, otherwise we are lost!”

Details:

  • En avant, marche! is playing until June 24, 2017, at Bluma Appel Theatre, St Lawrence Centre for the Arts (27 Front Street East)
  • Shows begin at 8 pm, with an Audio Described show at 8 pm on Saturday June 24
  • Ticket prices range from $29 to $88, with special pricing for students/youths and arts workers, and are available online, at the door, and through the box office at 416-368-4849.

Photo by Phile Deprez.

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