La Causeuse (The Loveseat) is an intriguing visual performance by Olivia Faye Lathuillière from France and Canada-based Sens Equivoc. Mixing up mime, movement and unexpected bits of almost-magic, this is a master-class in po-faced, physical clowning.
Lathuillière begins in the audience, ticket in hand, searching for her seat. Moving up and down the aisle, staring hard from ticket to seats, she slowly turns towards the stage, identifying the luxurious, red, velvet armchair sitting alone in a spotlight, as hers. And here the story begins, as Lathuillière takes us through the remnants of a romantic history, played out around La Causeuse.
With awkwardly self-conscious glances at the audience, Lathuillière tries to sit nonchalantly in the chair. Acting out the nervous placing of each hand, the crossing and uncrossing of legs, she occasionally stops and holds unnatural poses, placing a deliberate finger to her mouth in the latest ‘fingermouthing’ selfie style. This continues, with only the muffled titters from the audience as background noise, until she is suddenly sucked, bottom first, down the back of the cushion and disappears into the chair.
Following this pattern, of short episodes each ending with Lathuillière’s surprising disappearance, the drama is built, scene by scene. In the next episode, her hands, poignantly expressive, go through the gestures of a love affair, from a shy beginning, through fierce copulating, to arguing and break-up. One hand gives the other a middle finger flick-off and the other rests (sulkily?) on the back of the chair.
But then - surprise! It must be a fake hand resting there as Lathuillière appears, both hands intact, from somewhere off-stage. The following scenes that are acted out with one or more false hands, of romantic reels across the room and jerky gyrations over the back of the chair, are so good your eyes invent the non-existent person behind the hands.
When taking her bow, Lathuillière gestures to La Causeuse and with some humour the audience responds, chuckling and applauding enthusiastically. However, Lathuillière’s skill and artistry in creating believable characters from inanimate objects is no laughing matter, even though it is a very funny business.
The manipulate Festival runs until 5th February