Belgian company Les Ballets C de la B are a loose-knit collective of highly individual performers. Typically, their pieces are collages of disparate scenes, full of unexpected shifts of pace and mood. Such is Ted Stoffer’s Aphasiadisiac, which circles the themes of love and language.
It opens with bullish Stoffer and elfine Kristyna Lhotáková walling themselves into towers of wooden bricks, some of which are inscribed with random words. They reach towards each other through chinks, but can’t quite touch, and the synapse between their outstretched hands is eventually bridged by a lettered brick. It’s a perfect metaphor for the distance between people, for our inadequate means of connection.
The gap between communication and contact is the thread through the piece. Mieke de Groote recounts a story, disjointedly talking and miming at the same time; Stoffer and Yvan Auzely, like losers in charades, respond with their own puzzled misreadings. Auzely gives Lhotáková a hug, unaware – because she’s wearing not just her coat and but her hair back to front – that in fact she has her back to him. Lhotáková clings to Pieterjan Vervondel as he plays the drums, her desperate kisses messing up his rhythm. Intermittently, everyone forms a raucous band, complete with sax, trumpet, accordion and wailing vocals. Here, the ensemble just about hangs together, and you realise that only music-making seems to afford them a common cause, a degree of communion.
Inevitably, there are snags and holes in this patchwork piece, but it’s shot through with humour and pathos, and the performers are terrific.