One of the most anticipated shows in the Adelaide Festival 2023 season, Belgian theatre collective FC Bergmann brought The Sheep Song to the Dunstan Playhouse for an Australian exclusive. Being a collective, the roles in The Sheep Song are played by different people in different countries but the names we refer to below are those who played those roles in the Australian season.
The show opens with naked man (Yorrith de Bakker) with only his face covered pulling a rope and ringing a large bell above the stage. The curtain is raised and a flock of real sheep graze on the stage before a sheep unlike the others shows itself. This is the sheep who dares to be human, who dares to do something different to the rest. But you should be careful what you wish for. The sheep-man finds itself in the human world and is exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly, though he doesn’t see their faces as they are all obscured with thick stockings or similar material.
Unfortunately, as clever as this show is in many ways, it falls short in others. Starting with the clever, the main character, the sheep-man, played by Titus De Voogdt, wore shoes like sheep hooves which had him walking on the balls of his feet rather than having his heels touch the ground for the whole show. To do so for most of the 90 minute show would have been quite tiring and quite challenging on the feet and legs.
The set is an inventive use of space with two travelators along the front of the stage on which various scenes or props are placed. It is also used to add impressive visual effect to synchronised choreographed moves by some of the dancers.
The music is worthy of mention. A combination of a recorded track and a banjo player sitting at the front of the stage (Frederik Leroux-Roels) provide the sound throughout the show. The lighting is also atmospheric and moody with dim lighting often and a spotlight from above or from off the stage such as for the bullfighter about to enter the ring.
It is quite impressive to be able to stage a show in which there is no dialogue (apart from the puppet and the puppet master in two brief scenes, which is in Italian and not necessary to understand). This of course opens it up to international audiences without the need for translation and local actors but it also provides the audience with a different experience to the norm.
However, as mentioned above, The Sheep Song did have its shortcomings. Even though it was only 90 minutes long, the performance was longer than it needed to be. The perverted puppet-show and its perverted puppet-master didn’t really need to make a repeat performance and were extremely uncomfortable to watch as the puppet was forced to do things it didn’t want to do. The scene with the baby crying incessantly didn’t need to go on for as long as it did. The audience got the message that it was incessant and exasperating. While their choreography was impressive, some of the dance scenes didn’t seem to have a place or serve any purpose in the story.
Overall, The Sheep Song is a clever concept with an impressive set, music, lighting and cast but the story itself could do with some revision to make it tighter. If the show didn’t have such unnecessarily violence and uncomfortable scenes that didn’t seem to serve a purpose, we would have given it more croissants.
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Festival.
Adelaide Festival 2023 has now concluded and the Australian season of The Sheep Song has now concluded.
For our other Adelaide Festival content, please see below:
Messa da Requiem: a feast for the senses
So Much Myself: Piano Portraits shines new light on archival footage of memorable women
So Much Myself: Piano Portraits at Adelaide Festival tells a millennium of stories celebrating discovery and courage
Cédric Tiberghien is coming to Australia for recitals and the world premiere of The Cage Project
The Cage Project: piano as you’ve never heard it before
For other events with French and Francophone links, check out our What’s on in March.