Ticket-holders for "Festival of Lies" at REDCAT in Walt Disney Concert Hall sit on two sides of the stage -- some at cafe tables -- with a view of a working bar on the third side and a platform for a skillful four-man pop band at the back. Welcome to a neighborhood club and performance space somewhere in Africa.
Faustin Linyekula tells us that buying food and drink from the bar supports his four-member company from the Democratic Republic of Congo. But that's not true (the money goes to REDCAT). And we're told in words spoken as well as projected onto two walls that everything we see and hear in this two-act piece is "a fiction." That's not true either.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, October 30, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 90 words Type of Material: Correction
'Festival of Lies': A review and headline in Friday's Calendar section on "Festival of Lies" at REDCAT said that it had never been performed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the review emphasized that the performance should have been seen by those in the troupe's home country. In fact, the troupe performed in Kinshasa in 2005 and in Lubumbashi, Kolwezi and Likasi in 2006. A REDCAT representative had asked a member of the company about prior performances but the question apparently was misunderstood due to a problem in translation.
There are several texts in "Festival of Lies" (seen Wednesday and ending Saturday). One consists of historical speeches tracing the political and governmental crises of the cast's native land. Another comes from Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu reading from "Mes Obsessions," describing her daily life and frustrations in Congo. Yet another is the personal commentary of Linyekula, the choreographer, director and leading performer in this intermittently powerful multidisciplinary work.
His fellow performers Papy Ebotani and Djodjo Kazadi remain mute until the end, interacting with Linyekula (but not Mumbu, who stays on the sidelines) in dance sequences that resemble contact improvisation in their moment-by-moment explorations of shared body weight. Often involving the manipulation of portable fluorescent light poles, their dances abstractly underscore the texts but grow more explicit, and violent, toward the end of each act.
Depictions of interrogation and torture as well as a sequence featuring a table full of chopped-up dolls offer chilling insights into one extreme of Congo history, and Linyekula's nervy solos are a twisty, twitchy, dodgy portrait of the kind of sensibility that develops in that context.
The search for authentic identity -- personal as well as national -- is a major theme in the piece. Unfortunately, Linyekula's dismayingly self-indulgent and protracted final solo subverts this theme and compromises the whole work by threatening to reduce it to a monumental ego trip.
It's important to note that "Festival of Lies" has never been performed in Congo -- it's strictly protest art for export. As such, its revelations may be pertinent in Belgium (which used to control Congo and where the piece had its premiere a year ago) and here (where governmental interrogation techniques are currently a topic for debate and where TV soap operas function as "a drug," in Mumbu's words, just as they do in her homeland). But, in a profound sense, all its audiences so far might be considered stand-ins for the people who should see the work and probably never will.
That's the ultimate fiction and irony of a piece that really does belong in a neighborhood club and performance space somewhere in Africa.
'Festival of Lies'
Where: REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A.
When: 8:30 p.m. today and Saturday
Price: $20 and $25
Contact: (213) 237-2800