Get our free email newsletter with just one click

En Avant, Marche!

En Avant, Marche! at King's Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Phile Deprez En Avant, Marche! at King's Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Phile Deprez
by -

Strange and otherworldly, En Avant, Marche! – from Ghent-based NTGent and les ballets C de la B at the Edinburgh International Festival – steps into the world of the marching band, with a highly theatrical production that draws on classical music, opera, clowning and ballet.

The piece evolves around performer Wim Opbrouck’s larger-than-life trombonist, given eight months to live and reduced to the ranks of cymbal player in the band which is the centre of his life. It’s a category-defying performance, with Opbrouck marauding around the stage, terrorising members of the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Brass Band, addressing the audience, singing Verdi arias and performing an unlikely ballet duet with Hendrik Lebon.

The band, augmenting the seven players in the touring ensemble, are integral to the production’s success. Following Opbrouck’s hilarious – but truly observed – creation of a cymbal player’s practising for his few notes in Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, their rendition of the full piece is subtly played, raising the requisite hairs on the back of the neck. But it is their arrival on stage, placement and trouping around it – led by Griet Debacker and Chris Thys as gold glitter-clad cheerleaders – that frame the whole piece.

Luc Goedertier’s set places the rehearsal room of the band in front of a high rear wall with huge oblong windows, across which characters can parade or practice. Strategic placement of one above another makes Debacker and Thys’s cheerleader practice appear to be one, stretched, performer.

At times directors Frank Van Laecke and Alain Platel let Opbrouck’s maraudings veer into overextended self-indulgence. But the whole piece creates a world in which a life can be celebrated, even as its death is drawing near.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Genre-defying combination of brass bands and theatre in a bizarre celebration of life