Jan Fabre: A Must See at Kassar Theater

After exiting Kassar Theater after viewing Jan Fabre’s “Je Suis Sang: A Medieval Fairy Tale,” I think I maintained the same gaping jaw-drop as I did throughout the entire play.

“Je Suis Sang” was indeed not like any other play I have ever seen. With a cast of several main characters, dancers, and musicians, as well as a complex but interestingly dramatic storyline, this play is definitely worth the view.

However, I believe it would be fair to warn anyone who is humble. timid, or faint of heart: Prepare to witness a lot of “blood,” nudity, and plenty of sexual and ritualistic implications, which serve to both confront issues of our so-called “advanced” society, as well as to bring up questions about self-exploration, the human body, and the after-life.

The one and one-half hour production, which began showing in 2003, opens up with three contrasting characters, perhaps the only characters on stage who remain clothed somehow throughout the course of the play.

A pot-bellied jester in a red thong, a black-garbed woman with a book on her head, and a knight in frozen stance, are the first characters to be seen visually and perhaps remain the only characters who are unchanged.

After a few moments of silence, the stage breaks out in the first of many musical songs. Loud, dramatic, and accompanied by several guitars and trombones, these scenes do give the play much of its intensity and drama.

After a few moments, a man dressed in green with a metal funnel on his head questions the audience, the first of several instances in which the audience is addressed.

“Wouldn’t you love to be a hedonist?…Beings of pleasure who remain eternally young and free of all rules…There are limits sexually but we cannot stay away…we shall die and we shall exceed limits.”

The scenes that follow are where I consider the play to have revealed itself, as well as where I first began to get immensely confused. The man dressed in the green, accompanied by a woman in green, admit to “being addicted to the best stuff there is.”

Apparently this stuff is blood, as throughout the rest of the play they not only visually show it, but talk of it and celebrate it as a feast of life.

It would also not be out of line for one to assume the addiction lies in sex. It would not take a bunch of nude men and women rolling around humping things and masturbating to figure that out.

Instead, this sexual vision is used to compare with the constant mention of “blood-lust, bloodthirstiness, and bloodshed,” considered the three qualities that rule over the lives of all human beings.

It was very difficult to describe the actual content of the play, however it definitely consisted of lots of visual pain and violence.

In essence, the naked women, who first appeared on stage, are initially primal and free people.

The “green people,” along with several of their pajama-dressed minions, all seem to admire the women’s’ beauty, however their longing for blood makes them want to subdue, dissect, an essentially drain the women of their blood.

The end of the play results in the “vampires” eventually defeating the humans by sucking their blood, but not until after the stage breaks out in an intense scene similar to a bacchanal, medieval orgy gone wrong.

Perhaps why this play was so difficult to understand is, after its completion, I was still unsure of many of its main elements. For example, I was not completely sure of when and where the story took place, the only hint being from the quote, “it is 2007 after Christ, and we are still living in the Middle Ages.”

I could never figure out who these people were, what were they doing to these naked women, why they longed for blood above everything else, and why a topless woman would come out every so often and sing Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacherman.”

Perhaps if I had more background on the play and the previous works of its director, maybe I could produce more insight and better reflection, as I’m sure this play was meant to be both appreciated and understood.

Although it was often intensely unpredictable and slightly confusing, I would not discourage anyone from going to see this production.

Maybe this play did branch off the teachings of Butoh, in that it is not meant to be analyzed and torn to shreds for meaning, but rather appreciated and noted for the questions it raises and the questions it fails to answer.

Despite my perplexity, I walked away thinking, and in my opinion, that alone is enough reason to want to see this play.

The production here at Montclair’s Kassar Theater was the US premiere of this event, but look around local listings for more information of this production.