Humans: fascinatingly intricate animals by Eve Stainton
The Old Market Theatre in Hove hosted Victor on 24 March. A piece by Jan Martens and Peter Seynaeve which brought a 16 year old boy and young man, Viktor Caudron and Steven Michel, to share the same mass of lowly lit space.
I got the feeling something extraordinary was about to happen.
We were presented with a long period of time, which encouragingly granted us the permission to study Viktor and Steven’s bodies; the skin surrounding their soft eyes, the placement of the lower rib, the delicate protrusion of the stretch of the collar bone, the difference in thickness of the lower arm, the age of the torso. I searched for comparison and, among all the differences, there appeared to be a growing similarity between the two. The interestingly small age gap highlighted the idea of innocence and experience in a tensioned play of power, tact and reliance. Boyhood, manhood and the merging mid ground. Their bodies were alive, which seemed quite obvious, but somehow new. I felt privileged by their humble presence.
This period developed into a dense quietness, which seemed to give birth to a well of conceptual thoughts. During this time, still near the beginning, I found myself wondering if it’s sufficient to explore youth and age by showing youth and age. My conceptual brain was craving to see something radical, like two odd buildings placed next to each other whose shape and distance could subsequently invoke thoughts of relationship, time and humanity. I realise this is absurd. It makes me wonder why, or if, it is in our nature to personify things? Perhaps personification offers comfort in knowing our surroundings, a deeper familiarity to the world we live in, things can become something we share our world with on an emotional level, for reassurance and safety. But maybe that has nothing to do with it. Maybe this simply comes down to my own need to analyse and be challenged by what I see to the point of impossibility. It was then, during this silently brewing whirlwind, as Steven and Viktor slowly planted their synchronised feet through a locked gaze, I uncovered a deeper connection which relieved me from naivety. What we saw here is everything. The fundamental simplest form of representation. We witnessed what was happening and saw what we relate everything else to. Bodies, generations, sensitivity, humans, buildings, life… From then on, my relationship to the piece was existing within another realm, one elevated from the microcosmic action.
I’ve found myself feeling the importance of another side to the piece which seems too relevant to miss, but difficult to tackle (and probably shouldn’t be difficult to tackle). A predominant thought for me was sex; sex in a sense of desire and needs. During the post-show talk, there was an important discussion regarding paedophilia, which we learnt was also heavily acknowledged during Jan and Peter’s process; when does something become paedophilloic? Not that the piece was about this, but that it had been brought up previously in conversation post show. Somehow for me it wasn’t so prevalent, perhaps because I had a subconscious want for it not to be a theme in case it uncovered a dark side to the piece that could morph it into something far from my personal journey. I felt it was cleverly crafted in such a way that allowed for many responses, for me this section was concerning sexualised desires of a man in comparison to a boy and the consequence of the two happening simultaneously. A beautiful section that explored this involved Viktor being held repeatedly in different places around Steven’s body to create a sequence that increased in pace and intensity. As Steven grew more tired, his breath became audible in a rhythmic pattern mimicking the sequence. It culminated in Viktor’s torso slapping against Stevens back, forcing an exhausted breath out of Steven’s body. This conjured thoughts on dependency. The smaller body was completely dependent on the strength and decision making of the supporting body almost in need for comfort, whilst the supporting body needed something different for his satisfaction, a human as a sexual being, whilst still being responsible for support. Viktor was off the floor for the entirety of the section. I thought about growth, development, innocence, need, strength and nurture. This was realised at the very end of the piece, as Viktor was again lifted from his feet to a weightless place of heavy dependency. It was married with gospel, spiritual sounds which filled the room with an emotional cloud of realisation, ongoingness and the constant unfolding of time. It held the reassurance that, aside from wants and needs, wisdom and adult nurture will take over and that willingness to protect is a human instinct. An absolute sacrifice for support. Viktor was in the air because Steven was on the ground. And I was living somewhere in between.