Next Door

BE Festival

Birmingham Rep Studio

*****

Birmingham’s BE Festival is a ten day-long celebration of international theatre hosted by The REP and it kicked off perfectly with a performance of 2013’s winning show, Next Door by Danish theatre company Out of Balanz

This winning show highlights the power of culture and was a great start to BE Festival 2014 as Birmingham starts to celebrate its unique plethora of culture and diversity.

Hailing from Lecoq School and now based in Copenhagen, Out of Balanz are an impeccable company of two performers, Ivan Hansen from Denmark and Pekka Raikkonen from Finland, along with director Katrina Bugaj. This dynamic duo celebrate culture throughout their performance, which allows us to see an abundance of life and joy given to us as individuals, but also challenges us to constantly learn more from others around us.

After the death of Ivan’s neighbour, a person he thought he knew, he discoveredt he didn’t know about his neighbour at all. It was this realisation that inspired Hansen and gave way to the idea of looking into the relationships of strangers and those from different cultures. This soon then became Next Door.
Out Out of Balanzof Balanz are a beautifully playful company and are the perfect advocate for devised theatre. With a set of around five cardboard boxes and a small amount of props, they create a joyful world that is a pleasure to be a part of. Their imagination is so strong that the audience are transported to this wonderful world with no intention to face reality again.

This show is a glorious display of fun and humour, bridging the gap of peace to the topic of war. Out of Balanz take down the audience’s shyness and worry for those around them. Elements such as inviting us to make friends with a stranger sitting close by, an offering of sweets going around the audience whilst the actors perform and a friendly toast of Danish whiskey post-performance were a celebratory beacon, bringing down the walls of austerity and caution . These gestures given so thoughtfully and generously by Hansen and Raikkonen are the essence of theatre. They brought people together to celebrate the voice of art.

Hansen has a gift for storytelling. His heartfelt account of his personal past experiences paired with a joyful yearning to entertain and please the audience makes for a terrific experience. Raikkonen’s talent of performance and natural stage presence meant that he was a wonderful and funny visual aid to the show, not to mention an impeccable comedic mime.

This excellent little world screamed fun from start to finish. Both performers were so at ease with each other and their beautiful imagination’s that this became infectious to the audience. There were huge fits of laughter throughout the piece and every member of the audience walked out of the auditorium with a gleeful smile. Hansen welcomed us to the story of his past with open arms which meant that we were all part of this fantastic celebration together. The stage was open and the lighting was set so that the performers could see the audience as well as we could see them.

Next Door is warming and inviting as well as giving way to many thoughts that are easy to overlook. An excellent and charming display of integration and friendship. To 08-07-14

Elizabeth Halpin

02-07-14  

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