Ever had a dream that was so real it made you lose your grip on reality? One that turned into hallucinations the following day? One that drove you close to madness?
Marciel has — and it did.
He’s the eponymous hero of “Marciel Hallucine,” and what led to this state of affairs is told in a 10-minute film that kicks off this unusual and captivating piece of performance art, being staged at Art Sphere on Tennozu Isle in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward until Dec. 30.
Marciel is played by Marc Hollogne, who also created the show’s blend of film and live action. As the opening film unrolls, we see Marciel, a dandyish gentleman in a yellow-and-brown check suit, haunted by fantastical dreams of a beautiful woman with tumbling dark hair and a billowing dress.
These pleasant dreams, however, start bothering Marciel when he begins seeing the lady in real life. Then things take a really disturbing turn. The lady becomes pregnant, and images of her swelling belly (and the baby within) start to drive Marciel mad. As he seems on the verge of insanity, a kindly friend advises him to see a psychiatrist. And as Marciel enters the waiting room of the psychiatrist, the show begins.
The cinetheatre of “Marciel Hallucine” — which sees half the stage filled by a cinema-style screen — is perfect for telling a story that merges fact and fantasy, and has Marciel confronting both the positive and negative sides of his personality. In this way, Hollogne acts almost always alone on the stage half of the set, before — with perfect timing — seemingly stepping seamlessly into the film to interact with the other characters, then off screen again to emerge on the live stage . . . and so on.
This combination of theater and cinema is something that Hollogne came up with years ago.
“It all started in my mind when I was 12 years old,” the Belgian-born performer told The Japan Times. “Even at that age, mixing everything seemed completely natural. Together, it all becomes one. I think that it would be more difficult for me to do just a single aspect of performance.”
Even at a young age, Hollogne divided the pages of his diary into three columns — cinema, theater and songs — to jot down his impressions and ideas each day.
The result, cinethea^tre, is like nothing you’ve seen before.
“I can use the extra dimension of the screen to play with something invisible,” said Hollogne.
This produces moments both dramatic and comic. In the scene when the woman of Marciel’s dreams lovingly strokes her pregnant stomach, a hilarious image of a fetal infant suddenly appears, growing larger and larger till it fills the entire screen. Slowly, this unborn child reaches out toward Marciel, who gapes in amazement at its hand which, in a nice twist, is about five times bigger than its parent’s.
Hollogne’s cinethea^tre is so smooth, in fact, that after a few minutes — and despite the surreal imagery — you’ll most likely forget that the actor is practically the only person on stage and the rest of the cast are just two-dimensional projections on a screen. One example is when an American football player, on screen, “passes” a pineapple to Marciel, who is on stage. As if the pineapple really did come out of the screen, Hollogne catches it without missing a beat.
And beat there is, too, because this show also features musical numbers and dance steps — probably owing to the fact that Hollogne started out as a musician. In one scene of the film, Marciel (looking comically out of place) executes a series of fancy hip-hop dance steps with three black dancers in basketball gear, all the while singing a rap song. In another, our hero — now dressed as Elvis Presley — performs live with an onscreen backing band. As his deep, sexy voice booms through the theater, you’re momentarily transported from the show to the middle of a rock concert.
From one scene to the next, the quick changes in the onscreen images and onstage action are enough to make your head spin. Before you know it, what’s real and what isn’t begins to blur. Nothing seems to make sense — but then, it all seems to make sense.
“This show is about hallucinations and dreams,” said Hollogne. “And when you dream, you don’t have the same logic as you would in real life. You build your thoughts with another logic. But in the end, you have, effectively, a story.”
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