Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
August, 2000

Muted cocktail jazz tinkles around the Traverse Two stage, which is dominated by a dinner table in some disarray. Tentatively, a bespectacled man enters, takes a seat at the end of the table and begins, stammeringly, apologetically, to discourse on the value of believing in nothing, of "social nothingness".

Jeroen Willems, in this solo piece presented by Theatregroep Hollandia, is in fact reciting the words of Italian cinematic iconoclast Pier Paolo Pasolini. After ten minutes or so, he switches chairs, rearranges his clothing and becomes a self-satisfied plutocrat explaining the power which lies in his smile (a smile, be it noted, that makes Malvolio look like Bobby Ball). Then a wheedling, sneering figure details the labyrinthine structure of the industrialist's holdings, with visual aid from a pair of tights strewn on the table, which he strokes and pulls (with sensuous pleasure) into various configurations. The most startling physical transformation is into a drag queen telling a parable of an unusual Faustian pact made by an intellectual (the one we have just seen? Another? It barely matters). Finally, we leave Pasolini for an urbane but loathsomely self-serving speech on the "obligations" of major companies, taken in fact from a speech by the former chief of Shell.

Political, philosophical and above all moral viewpoints are discreetly abraded against one another as Willems' compelling performance enacts Pasolini's horrified fascination with various bourgeois value systems.

Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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