Arctique, looking from a different angle

By Armand Kovacs, 31.01.2020

                Nowadays there are many subjects that are considered hot topics in our modern society, things such as gender discrimination, modernism versus conservatism and, maybe the hottest one of them all, global warming and climate change. The last couple of years have especially been very heavy in the latter subject because of the rise of concern regarding what is happening to our world, with highs such as the Paris Climate Accords and the children´s movement to the lows of governments and heads of states not admitting it exists while their countries are burning. Therefore, we have had a surge of climate change related art and culture which is changing the face of the modern arts.

            Such a proof of how important the environment is in our lives is the play Arctique which I just attended at the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg, a play by Das Fraulein (Kompanie) and the Studio Theatre National Wallonie-Bruxelles in coproduction with multiple other theatres including Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.

            The underlying problem of our impact on climate is told through a story of how people on a ship create their own dystopia, impacting each other’s existence until nobody is left and the ship fades into oblivion. I will not insist on the text and story of the play itself (which was actually interesting and I recommend you participate at the play first of all to see this tale presented through such deep and expressive symbolism).

            What I will discuss about will be the technique and directorial view which I found to be new and refreshing, taking interest and focus towards multiple arts, combining them to tell us a story of basically how humanity is guiding itself towards disaster.

            The play used many techniques which were marvelously included into the narrative, starting from using light and music to using video. First of all we had the pleasure of having a band included in the abstract vision of the play, a band that played live music and sometimes added to the macabre sounds of more tense moments who sucked the audience in the atmosphere of the moment (I especially enjoyed the musical reference to the show Black Mirror which also presents a dystopian view of humanity. For more hints play this).

            At the same time, lights and other effects were used to enhance certain moments, having flickers of light in more tense moments, smoke and snow in more serious passages and lighter atmosphere in more heartwarming episodes.

Although this, one of my favorite things was the usage of live performances outside the scene being shown on the screen to the audience which gave the play a whole new dynamic. The play takes place on a ship and the main scenes were happening in one of the lounges but the director shows us what is happening in the other rooms as well and we, the audience, have the opportunity to always see what the characters are doing without losing track of them. This way we had point of view scenes in which we were immersed because we were being put in the shoes of the characters or scenes in which we have a more on the top view in which we find it easier to follow the whole narrative. This is one of the main reasons I actually recommend this show. It is something that I find quite unique and really adds something special to the whole performance.

Although I was very pleased with the directorial view and the writing I can say I was a bit disappointed in the sound quality which really broke me out of my trance (especially during the singing sections which I think were played too loud). Also, compared to other plays I have recently went to the acting was a bit under par as well. It wasn´t bad, it´s just that I had much higher expectations from the actors considering the raw talent and vision of the director and screenwriter.

All in all, with its ups and downs, Arctique is a fresh vision of a nowadays common subject, a play that is neither a comedy, nor a tragedy, nor a manifesto but all of these and much more, a proper analogy to how we should treat climate change itself: forget everything we know and try to approach everything from a fresh angle.

I highly recommend you go through the experience of seeing this show not only for its wonderful message but also for the vision of the people presenting it. It has another showing at the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg on the 31st of January. Also if you want to know what else is happening theater wise in Luxembourg you can look here. Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg always have amazing things happening.

(c) Christophe Engels