May 3, 2019
An unusual character of multifaceted aspects and identities inhabits the stage for almost two hours. Every moment of Jeremy Wade’s The Clearing is enigmatic and compelling; every moment is interpreted with an extraordinary performative presence, the superb live music from Marc Lohr adding to every scene.
Wade’s interpretations cross over identities and characters. From urban shaman to a homeless itinerant dragging his trolley of belongings; from unsettled being trapped in a psycho-reality to a migrant surviving horrifying stories; from simpleminded and superficial guide to discouraged and moaning showman darkly welcoming and cheering up his audience.
Tragic paradoxes are underlined and spiced up with brilliant sarcasm and witty expressions and sighs. There is a general sense of decadence and cynicism that touches profoundly and leaves one disconcerted.
As the spectators take their seats Wade is already on stage. Wearing a white suit and gas mask, he collects attentively a black material spread out on the floor that immediately recalls something toxic. Assembling the ashes in a long container hidden between his legs he seems to push them in an infinite well. The scene is magnetic and sparks curiosity
A trolley, not unlike a cleaner might use, is loaded with various boxes and tools. It’s feels like a sort of survival kit. Taking off his white suit, he unveils a dark turquoise latex suit, perfectly fitting his body. He is sensual, stylish and fetish.
As he pushes his trolley, images of the homeless come to mind. He uses a cleaning tool in the four corners of the stage. Two wooden sticks, recalling shaman instruments, are crossed behind his back and used as tribal weapons as to defeat evil spirits. Shifting from one side of the stage to the other, he expresses anger, agitation, disquiet, his magnificently contorted and flexible neck and torso bristle with tight muscles in a way that is oddly poignant.
Image after image is desperate, disturbing, impressive. He keeps going to his survival kit, his life-jacket, with resonating moans and laments. A lamp becomes a baby, held tenderly as he sings an improvised lullaby. When the ‘child’ dies, his suffering and agony mirrors that of any parent who loses a child. It is truly striking.
He runs backwards as if going insane, or maybe just out of sheer desperation. Eventually, immersed in his dark torment, he abandons himself on the floor. A rain of soot falls on his inert body before he slowly wakes with a long and consuming cry as if hoping to overcome a nightmare.
But still he goes on. In a strongly sinister scene, and now dressed as a cheerful manager of a boat, he welcomes survivors after a global catastrophe, describing the accommodation and entertainment on board. The dissonance between the greetings and the description of the place is alarming as paradoxes on the boat are described in horrifying detail. It’s like looking at an eerie, dispiriting amusement park, the last option available being to survive. References to the carnage of the Mediterranean Sea cannot be avoided.
The second part of The Clearing is a prolonged cabaret with him as entertainer. The show is based on a lamentation that mixes his life and frustrations. An unresolved relationship with a sister becomes a constantly returning obsession. Dispiriting, it’s made all the more authentic by minded considerations and political statements.
The impossibility to fit in standard patterns and structures and the constant need of society and institutions to control ways of being and behaving is very much part of Wade’s research. In The Clearing, the frustration caused by unsolvable problems and the anger of perpetual mistakes is immediate. It shakes souls and perceptions. His contorted and fully embodied motions scream out loud strong declarations and his magnetic charisma resonates in every part of the show.
Jeremy Wade is a performer who is strongly political with excellent physical skills, and strong, clear messages. Exceptionally able to narrate and draw attention to global issues, he is disturbing, thought-provoking, and an impactful shaman.