Live blogging from the NEU NOW Festival, Nantes // 'Eaten by Men' creates a sadistic circus of eggs, wheat, gymnastic exercises and group pressure in the Salle Vasse.
It is hard to say what Eaten by Men is, exactly. It’s acted on a stage so it’s probably theatre. There are two serious opera singers in it. The movement they make betray that some are dancers. A great deal of the choreography consists of gymnastic excercises, including kicking each other’s butt, seated shuffle-racing with an egg on a spoon in your mouth, and spreading your legs wide (this probably has to do with sex). It is not outrageous to call it circus.
It is also an investigation into group dynamics – one that includes scapegoating, competition, domination, humiliation, the course you have to follow, and indeed, sex. A tall bony man with an austere expression draws out the lines in traces of flour, only speaking twice or thrice during the entire performance. Time and again, the lines are wiped out and drawn again. The actors shout orders at each other, sit, stand, lie down, stand up, relax. They engage in the sort of child’s plays that is not really child’s play – and even child’s play has more than a nasty edge to it. They go through the same activities time and again, ever more frantically. In between hang large sacks of wheat, matching nicely in color with the silly yellow costumes, the eggwhite make-up, and the yolky lighting. In the end, the bony man comes with a pike to stab open the sacks, and a purifying stream of wheat rains down upon the set.
Is there a resolution? No. It is just a matter of who humiliates whom at what moment. In the end they all stand humiliated, worn out, and maybe too tired to boss around each other anymore. The wonder is that it is all funny. Yes, even them kicking each other’s butt, when it always comes with a polite “thank you”. Even the jokes about digestion, if they are acted out with theatrical seriousness and nonchalantly over the top. But when they leave the stage, you know that tomorrow they will play the same game.