Category: Orgy of Tolerance (3)
When one imagines an orgy (and who doesn’t), one sees a mass of writhing bodies engaged (engorged) in a communal project of carnal satisfaction. The orgy is a provisional, anarchic society bent toward orgasmic self-immolation. Such quaint archetypes are promptly banished by the opening gambit of Jan Fabre’s new provocation, Orgy of Tolerance. Here, the Belgian auteur’s intensely disciplined performers compete in what could only be called a wack-off: four well-toned athletic types, dressed in crisp tightie-whiteys and wife-beaters, violently masturbate (hands spasmodically buried in underwear) as other people we can only assume are coaches urge them on with gruff encouragement.
Thus begins a series of surreal, blackly comic, unabashedly puerile sketches around themes of materialism, the body, and terrorism. Fabre and his crew don’t seem to have much of a thesis, besides the observation that we live in a world that is both hyperconsumerist and paranoid about security and pleasure. Thus the repeated images of women giving gun-toting men handjobs. The men (also women) wear berets and smoke cigars, conjuring images of Che Guevara. Are they revolutionaries, terrorists, or sexy models for some chic new freedom-fighter couture? Read more »
Thoughts in advance of Jan Fabre’s Orgy of Tolerance.
Do you remember the Mr. Creosote scene from Monty Python’s 1983 film The Meaning of Life? It is incredibly funny—or disgusting, depending on your point of view. The tuxedoed, morbidly obese Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones) waddles into his favorite fancy French restaurant. After settling down at his table and repeatedly projectile-vomiting into a bucket (and on a cleaning lady), our gourmand tucks into a ridiculously vast spread. The punch line comes when an unctuous waiter (John Cleese) cajoles Creosote into finishing his orgiastic repast with a “wafer-thin” mint, after which Creosote explodes, gallons of guts and blubber showering fellow patrons. Still alive and visibly shocked, he’s left as nothing but a flesh-shorn skeleton and an engorged heart thumping away. Watch the scene here to be both nauseated and amused:
Production notes for Belgian auteur Jan Fabre’s new piece, Orgy of Tolerance, cite Monty Python’s “painful comedy” as inspiration. “Their hilariously absurd sketches rub salt into our wounds,” writes Luk Van den Dries, Fabre’s premier scholar and dramaturg. “They expose the mechanisms of our collective illusion and undermine it with unparalleled comedic skill.”
Does this mean that Orgy of Tolerance is going to be a laugh riot? Not bloody likely. While gallows humor wriggles under the surface of Fabre’s visceral, discomfiting tableaux, the reactions he provokes aren’t easily codified as funny or satirical. In his previous visits to Peak Performances @ Montclair, Fabre’s visions included a naked dancer slathered in olive oil juggling gender signifiers (Quando l’uomo principale e una donna, or When the Leading Man Is a Woman). A few months later he returned with the epic Je Suis Sang (I Am Blood), an industrial-Boschian vision of men and women in medieval knights’ armor, doctors performing bizarre experiments on agonized nudes, and plenty of stage blood. This remarkable performance ended with a series of large metal tables tipped over and lined up, so the gleaming tops formed a massive, imposing wall; smoke wafted about and blood seeped from under the wall. Fabre and his fearless corps of actor-dancers created a world of metal, blood, flesh, and fire that suggested the end of the world or the beginning of a new one.
Orgy of Tolerance is, in part, Belgian director Jan Fabre’s response to what he sees as an alarming increase in the presence and tolerance of neo-Fascist attitudes in Europe. In a culture that claims to value inclusivity, are there limits to tolerance? In a tolerant society, how do we cope with extremes? Has a climate of fear and crisis led to a greater acceptance of certain attitudes and behavior that otherwise would not be considered acceptable?
Tell us what you think!