[Originally published on the website on the now defunct The Underground paper and mentioned on its Facebook page]
Eager theatergoers were patiently sipping on their beverages of choice in Korzo’s café, waiting for Blind – the Duda Paiva Company’s latest production – to start. The play’s director, Nancy Black, set an interactive tone by inviting 9 spectators to sit on stage and be part of the show. “You can help us tell the story”, she told volunteers, who were asked to shine a flashlight on Duda Paiva during his one-man performance whenever the lights go out.
Cue the theater hall, where a goggles-wearing, lump-ridden Duda emerges from the backstage and sits next to one of the volunteers. “I try to hide my problem”, he says, shyly pointing to the lumps tucked under his clothes. “There are special shops for this”, a participant quips. “For people with big lumps? Then I’m moving to the Hague!”, Duda replies, not missing a beat. If you think it was all laughs from here, you’d be sorely mistaken.
Humour was an integral part of the performance, but the show was dominated by Duda’s intense, creepy and often touching interactions with the foam creatures he would unroll from his lumps or reveal from one of the three hoop skorts hovering in rope geometries above the stage.
Brazilian spiritual tunes and chants interwove with kitschy techno sounds while Duda twirled with a spiritual healer puppet (who had helped him remove the first foam creature from his body), wrestled with a foul-mouthed figure or bonded with a delicate elfin silhouette.
In one of the show’s key moments, a possessed Duda, egged on by the angry creature, murders his elfin friend. It is then that the true meaning of the healer’s warning comes to life: “I took away your ugliness, now I want your beauty”.
A quick look at the company’s website reveals that the performance’s main source of inspiration was Duda’s temporary blindness as a child growing up in Brazil and related encounters with witch doctors. But, as with the best examples of contemporary performance art, viewers can weave their own meaning into the story.
This spectator was reminded of the ugliness / beauty, good / evil, lumpy / flat dichotomies we try to negotiate on a daily basis. There is peace of mind in knowing the only thing to do is to hold them tight in an awkward embrace as we blindly dance through life.
‘Blind’ premiered in the Netherlands on October 1st, 2015. For more information and tour dates go to http://www.korzo.nl/en/productions/blind