OSCAR by Scapino Ballet at Theater Carré in Amsterdam

To celebrate the anniversary of its founding, Amsterdam’s Koninklijk Theater Carré have produced, with Rotterdam’s Scapino Ballet, Oscar – a performance inspired by the life and art of the man after whom the building is named. A familiarity with Oscar Carré’s biography is not essential in order to enjoy this performance, which combines ballet with circus acrobatics to the backing music of the artist Blaudzun. However, such details as the persistence of equestrian imagery will be better appreciated if one is aware of the fact that Mr Carré was a horse-trainer.

One of the most dazzling sequences involved two of the dancers climbing atop an artificial horse (it was white and headless, with wheels installed beneath its hooves) and then gliding around the stage to produce an effect of unnatural, and thus unforgettable, grace. The circus performers were hypnotic, and I mean this in the sense that there was something compulsive about how they held your attention. I watched them accomplish their various feats with a feeling that was as much thrilled anxiety as admiration. 

Perhaps Blaudzun was the least memorable element of the performance. Even at the climax of the songs, I couldn’t help being diverted to the lower part of the stage, where the dancers were. It’s not that Blaudzun’s songs weren’t good, but sometimes they seemed to be unconnected to everything else that was happening (and there was always so much else that was happening).

That this discordance did not spoil the general spectacle of the production should give some indication of how impressive it was. The moment that remains especially vivid in my mind came towards the end, when the audience was encouraged to sing the chorus of one of Blaudzun’s songs. Even though the lyrics were themselves unremarkable, the majority of people joined in, and it seemed to me that they did this out of a genuine gratitude to all that they had witnessed up to that point. Which allows me to conclude on another compliment: I was so engrossed by the performance that I truly have no idea how long it lasted. Jacob John Shale   8th September 2022

Photo by Hans Gerritsen