Dead Horse shows softness as the greatest act of love

When Britt Truyts starts to sing, everyone falls silent. In the opening image of Looking for Habibithe end of the trilogy that actors Kuno Bakker and Mokhallad Rasem have made together in recent years, she starts an enchanting song, while the other performers remain silent in place. It feels like a mission statementas if after two performances in which the conversation between themselves was central, the makers wanted to make room for other voices and other forms.

Looking for Habibi – habibi means beloved – thus has a softer, more relaxed atmosphere than the often conflicting earlier two parts of the triptych, The fresh time and home made, in which the Dutch Bakker and the Belgian-Iraqi Rasem tried to bridge their differences. This is largely due to the expansion of the group of players: in addition to Truyts, guitarist and oud player Peter Verhelst and actor Janneke Remmers join the cast, which broadens the conversation and makes it less polarized. It is a stimulating metaphor for society: the more different perspectives equally participate in a conversation, the more room can be made for accepting difference.

Love

This fits in well with the central theme of the performance: love. In a few deceptively simple questions, each individual cast member’s gaze is scanned on the subject. The first question – where is your heart? – is completed by Bakker, for example, with a splendid monologue in which he places the relationship between man and the earth in the context of a toxic relationship. Truyts and Verhelst answer the question with a song, and Rasem with a staging of the birth of his son. The collectivity is underlined by the way in which the players engage each other in their stories: Rasem plays the silent Earth, and Bakker and Remmers are respectively the mother in birth and the child coming into the world.

When everything threatens to become just a little too loving, Remmers introduces a dissonance. If Bakker asks the question ‘what is the feeling of falling for someone?’ rather sentimentally, she says that for her it comes down to “a mirage in a desert of solitude.” Underneath her earthly directness a strong fatalism appears to be hidden, which neither Bakker’s Dutch optimism nor Rasem’s poetic melancholy can match. It leads to a disarming exchange on the question ‘how do you let go?’

That late Looking for Habibi seeing that daring to be vulnerable is perhaps the greatest act of love yet.

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