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Bodies hidden by shadows

The multimedia performance Dummy Lab might be more special effects than actual narrative, but it's a circus worth experiencing at Chamäleon through Aug 9.

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Photo by Carolin Saage

This circus has neither glitter nor pompoms. Instead, in Chamäleon’s Dummy Lab, bodies cross each other in a mysterious, dark atmosphere, seeming at times alive, at times dead. At times real, at times fake.

Accompanied by classy music – a combination of electro and cello performed live by Reecode and Lih – an impeccable cast creates superb images. Two women transform into one; a man plays with a plastic body; three performers jump on a sloped plane. Cartoon-like video projections amp up the atmosphere. Young director Eike von Stuckenbrok uses these extravagant video effects, designed by Frieder Weiss, as his main tool. Infrared cameras pick out the performers’ movements, after which a computer generates abstract graphics and projects these directly onto the stage in various shapes and colors. This magic matches nicely with the circus-esque movements, but von Stuckenbrok doesn’t know where to stop.

There is one wonderful moment of poetry: after a man’s hoop number, we get stillness. Accompanied by neither music nor video projection, the hoop falls slowly, gradually, before making a loud noise once it strikes the ground. We can almost hear the man breathe. It’s a powerful moment that gives a sense of what this show could have been – if von Stuckenbrok used technology in service of the performance, rather than vice versa. It’s a pity the team treats video effects like young graphic designers just discovering the shadow and color gradation effect on Photoshop, a preoccupation that leads them to neglect human emotion.

Still, Chamäleon – “a forward-looking address for new circus in Germany,” according to director Henrik Frobel – is worth seeing. “The story is just the beginning,” Frobel says. Let’s hope the group keeps the narrative going.

Dummy Lab, through Aug 9, Tue-Fri 20:00, Sat 18:30 and 21:30, Sun 18:00 | Chamäleon Theater, Hackeschen Höfen, Rosenthaler Str, U-Bhf Weinmeisterstr