Xavier Le Roy, a Frenchman based in Berlin, was a microbiologist before becoming a performer. And sure enough, his dispassionate solo, Self Unfinished, originally made in 1998, comes across as a brainy lab experiment. Clinical white light exposes the audience as well as the stage. Le Roy sits impassively in a corner, a lanky figure in drab clothes, palms resting on the table in front of him.
This is the “steady state” of the 50-minute piece, the scene to which it keeps returning. In between, Le Roy makes slow sorties around the stage, metamorphosing into increasingly outlandish creatures on each excursion. First, he is a robot, making hydraulic sounds and electronic whines in sync with his articulated limbs. Things get odder as he peels his shirt up over his arms and doubles over, palms on the floor. With a sudden perceptual shock, you see two headless bipeds instead of a human body, the smaller one pushing forward, the other pushed back.
In the next outing – he is down to his underwear now – Le Roy loops his limbs into crossed ribbons, and rolls like a misshapen louse. Finally, naked, he upends into a shoulder stand, head hidden and elbows sticking out along the floor. Disorientingly, your brain inverts the image: he looks like a seated, chicken-legged yogi, with long, thick proboscises for arms and a butt-cleft in place of a neck. Even weirder, the “legs” rise up to seemingly become eyes on stalks as Le Roy extends his arms, hands clenched.
It’s all much more uncanny than you’d think, so it’s a relief when he finally gets dressed, switches on a Diana Ross tune and saunters out to the foyer bar. He’s human, after all.