Two people stumble and shake awkwardly in the same space, occupying it until there is nowhere else to turn but to one another. They exist in a lonely and rather boring life until they meet, and create an entirely new dynamic in this surreal and absurd performance. Another One is about tolerance, and every movement they make, however tedious, is very deliberate. I won’t pretend I understand everything I saw – with a primarily mute performance and jolted movements, it depends very much on visuals and physical theatre – but actors Maxim Storms and Lobke Leirens have created an intense but imaginative piece of work, that twists emotions, and questions how much an individual can take before it becomes too much.
A tent sits in one corner, and a table and chairs in the other. Otherwise empty, the stage is a place of exposure, where Storms and Lierens tell the stories of these two individuals and how they cope. It is a very intimate concept in an open and bare space, which makes their relationship fascinating to the viewer. The title refers to the repetition: each movement, sound or slap across the face has some meaning to it (which can be hard to decipher), a fact we learn very slowly once we see their dynamic on stage.
It is shocking at times. In an absurdist performance you never know what will happen next, and the violence – though mild and controlled – had me with my mouth agape. The minimalism is forthright, with the noises the actors’ bodies make when hit or pushed prominent enough to create uneasiness. It was strange but somehow it worked, and all my expectations for the show went out the window in the first five minutes.
There is certainly a complex relationship present; from the moment they begin to play cards together I realised this wasn’t like any connection I’ve seen on stage before. Dependent on who got the higher value card, the loser becomes entirely submissive in a fight for endurance. It feels like it won’t stop either, and brought a lingering sense of discomfort, making it often a difficult show to watch. But this is the essence of Another One; it creates an emotive atmosphere and the audience feel what the actors do.
The way the two work together is perhaps discussed towards the end, but regardless it is still perplexing, and Another One becomes a show where the answers or explanations are not handed to you outright. I would describe the explanation as like a Question & Answer session without the questions. Looking at each and every audience member, Storms and Leirens nod their heads in agreement before giving their answer – without any sound or prompt from the audience. I am curious as to whether some answers were explaining concepts of the show.
This is definitely a performance which has stuck in my head, and even now I replay parts in my mind to find a deeper meaning. It might not be for everyone – the challenging, sensitive concepts had some audience members subconsciously making faces. But, unlike any show I have seen before, Another One is certainly a bewildering and unexpected experience.