Choreographer Clément Layes’ Things That Surround Us begins with three men marching in circles on a blank stage, naming objects (“Stuhl”, “glass”, “bouteille”) and retrieving them from offstage. After tinkering with these props – which mostly means destroying them – the three begin their major project, pouring multicolored sand on stage and using brooms to forge it into patterns.
Things has an agreeable, somnolent quality. As the men circle the stage, you’re lulled into a pleasant meditation on nothing in particular, punctuated by the gratification of seeing patterns emerge when colors join the swept-up potpourri. Half an hour in, though, it starts to feel a great deal like a tie-dye party thrown by your grandmother on New Year’s Eve: nice enough to look at, but you’d rather be somewhere else.
Based on the program, Layes and his team are heavily concerned with the concept of “the object” – with what happens if the everyday objects around us start to lose their meaning and take on new life.
In its final moments the piece builds to something resembling a weighty contemplation of this theme. Layes’s performers add objects to their sand patterns, the music mounts, the lights dim, and the whole endeavor takes on a sinister feel as the tasks performed start to look truly taxing. Mostly, though, the stage is fairly bare, and the action less than enthralling. The performers’ somber tone alerts us that the whole thing’s very serious, but it’s hard to pinpoint why.
Things That Surround Us, Nov 15-18, 19:30