Pink hair and helium balloons on stage

Pink hair and helium balloons on stage
The whimsical world of Mystery Magnet reflects the thoughts going through its creator Miet Warlop’s mind.

A huge bouffant of fluffy pink hair obscures the face of one performer, while another's eyes are locked on the floor, a cloud of helium balloons tethered to her neck.

A foil shark floats menacingly in mid-air, and a rain of darts falls from the ceiling, sticking flight-end up in the ground like a bed of steel-tipped flowers.

Step into the surreal world of Mystery Magnet, a performance which is part of the inaugural Singapore International Festival of Arts. The show opens later this month at the School of the Arts studio theatre.

For such a whimsical, otherworldly offering, one might expect its creator to be a little, well, spacey. Miet Warlop is anything but. Speaking to Life! over the telephone, the 36-year-old Belgian artist is straight-shooting, and responds to questions without pretence or hesitation.

When she stumbles over her words, a pause is followed by a throaty laugh, a curse, and a question: "This is not on the radio, is it?" It is perfectly forgivable to be confused about Mystery Magnet, even if you are its creator.

Warlop, whose works have been performed in England, France, Germany and Switzerland, says: "My problem is that I have this and this, and that and that in my head. I could have one action and stretch it to two hours, and work on the nerves of the audience, but I'd rather put everything I have in one hour, then you're going home with it."

The show, which features Warlop and actors from the Belgian theatre company Campo, loosely revolves around a performer in a fat suit, whom Warlop calls the "fatty".

"He's the address for the things that are happening," she says. "If I take him away, it's just Miet with the strange things going on. "All the rest of it is just enlarging his thoughts, what he consumes, his desires, the seduction that he's going through, the adventure that he's longing for, all those kind of things."

Warlop, who studied visual arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, also brings elements of those roots into her performative work.

"The show for me, it's more like a living painting, where the performers are brushes," she explains. "The blank canvas behind him is a free space for expressing things, and the outside world is smashing against this blank canvas."

When asked about the seemingly haphazard marriage of elements in her show, Warlop says that what appears on stage barely scratches the surface of what goes on in her head: "There is a moment where you have to choose the 10 per cent of the 100 per cent you have... I really want to make sure that I can take the eye out of the head and travel with it through things in an interesting way, or if not interesting, at least it won't make you fall asleep."

Amid the controlled chaos on stage, one thing which stands out is the conspicuous absence of faces in Warlop's work, not just in Mystery Magnet, but in many of her other creations as well. Performers' faces are often obscured, hidden beneath costumes, or turned away from the audience.

"I think the expression of the face has so much in it, that we are very naturally drawn to the face to see what is happening," she explains.

"I think if you take away the face, that we go to another level, that we go a bit deeper down, because we don't directly see it. And I think that when you take out the most usual expression, and when you say with your hands and legs and what you're doing, you think in another dimension."

But for Warlop personally, there is a simpler reason for shielding the face.

"I am shy, and that is why I take away the head. I have an artistic explanation for taking away the head, but I also have one that is very, very stupid, and that's because I am actually very shy."

BOOK IT

MYSTERY MAGNET

Where: School of the Arts Studio Theatre

When: Aug 14, 15 and 16, 8pm

Admission: $35 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)


This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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