Ramkoers is so difficult to define… ‘Musical performance’ falls short of its visual cacophony, ‘object theatre’ might falsely suggest some minimalist focus and ‘kinetic sculpture’ is a woefully inadequate description of the startling multi-functionalism that their instruments come props come ‘puppets’ provide.
Ramkoers is undoubtedly chaotic, endlessly inventive, highly energetic and emotive. The performance evolves until the players are swamped by a high tide of weathered contraptions and artefacts – all of which could be, or might be industrial waste, but which have absolute place and purpose in this world.
Despite its multiplicity, exploration of sound is the core thread. From the use of conventional music and the pleasing notes found in industrial tools, to the excruciating squeal of rubber on glass or ear-shattering crash of plates in a cement mixer, the tremendous emotional impact that sound has is paramount in this performance. We clapped, we laughed, we fell silent and we winced.
A key question of this Dutch language performance was ‘will it translate’? On the one hand, I felt that the medium of music was more than sufficient to convey a loose narrative and that audiences could easily connect and appreciate the show. However, the use of a lead singer/narrator did leave me wondering if there was a layer I was excluded from, a story that would congeal the performance and add depth to the human and object characters. In this, there may have been greater opportunity for the puppetry, perhaps?
I also found myself wondering how the performance would fit, or rather sprawl out, in another venue. Perhaps an outdoor space or marquee would better suit its ever-expanding requirements? Further, any performance where music is a foundation can inflict a certain cruelty on an audience who is seated. What would the dynamic be for a crowd who could move, who could dance?
That said, this performance is like nothing else. It is untameable, raw and above all, tremendous fun.
Your last chance to see this is tonight.
‘Ramkoers’ by BOT is on at the Arnolfini tonight, Tues 01 Sept at 9:30pm. To find out more, visit the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website.