It’s the very start of a performance. I saw it on video before I saw it live and loved the beginning so much I travelled to Belgium specifically to see it. Live, I still loved the start. I don’t love the rest of the performance.
I love it because it manages, with incredible immediacy, to layer multiple theatre languages in a complex yet instantly arresting way. The director, Jan Lauwers, is present at the very start – the piece was inspired by the death of his father. Text, song, dance and image play equal parts. A proper Gesamtkunstwerk. It grabs me straight away (then, over time, lets me go…).
It’s the beginning of Isabella’s Room by Jan Lauwers/Needcompany (2004)
I love this – on looking it up I realised I had misremembered it a bit.
And that it features on wikipedia lists of best opening lines ever.
I like both those things too.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 100 years of Solitude
The walk begins where a fairly ordinary looking street meets a bridge over a small stream. If you walk over it with your shoes off you will feel the rubber that covers the tarmac pressing hexagonal patterns in to the soles of your feet. On the left of the path, walking away from the bridge, is grass, some weathered picnic tables, and a small cafe that only opens when the weather is nice. On the right is a flat expanse of sand and, behind that, the sea. In winter it is grey, reaching up to meet a misty horizon. That is my favourite time of year for this walk.
On to the beach. Bare feet, damp sand.
A little further and you reach a curve. Follow it round. Cliffs rise up to your left. Huge jagged rocks line the edges of the water. On windy days, the waves break angrily against them; on calmer days, they create sheltered bays for swimming. Even on the hottest days of the year, the water is always cold.
This is only the beginning. The sand stretches out for miles ahead. I have walked for hours and never reached the end.