The Broken Circle Breakdown
One does not often associate Flanders with cowboys, but a show that premiered to hoots and hollers in Ghent last summer is riding out across the land, bringing a bit of twang, tears and Stetsons to a theatre near you.
Flanders, cowboys and the overwhelming power of grief
Ghent’s Compagnie Cecilia, led by long-time theatre maker Arne Sierens, presents quirky, often darkly comic original work, with a pool of young actors taking chances with experimental concepts. Music can figure heavily on a Compagnie stage, and this time it’s pure country & western, performed live.
The Broken Circle Breakdown Featuring the Cover Ups of Alabama is part concert, part tale of sorrow and broken dreams. The lives of the two leads, Monroe and Alabama, are recounted between musical numbers, but close your eyes, and it’s hard to tell which is which. Alabama in particular has lived a hard life full of trailer-trash men and an ever-pregnant mother, which actress and singer Mieke Dobbels delivers to the audience in her best Flemish drawl.
Monroe, meanwhile, used to be a happy-go-lucky sort, and when he and Alabama fell in love and got pregnant themselves, the pair excitedly sped off to Las Vegas to get hitched. But then something terrible happened. And Monroe cannot deal with his grief.
Alabama leaves him to wallow in his anger. She has had enough crosses to bear. Previously tattooed with the name of every man she’s ever been with, she covers them up, save the one next to her heart.
Johan Heldenbergh (one of the stars of the film Aanrijding in Moscou) sports a handlebar moustache and a fiery temper as his Monroe focuses his rage against the more conservative aspects of America, injecting a political element that may not be quite as spot-on as it was during the Bush administration but still touches on long-time American social contradictions.
The couple play their own guitar, and their Cover Ups band, meanwhile, deliver a melting pot of Deep South country and roots influences: pedal steel guitar, banjo, washboard, fiddle and mandolin.
God. The US. Inbreeding. Working hard to stay upright, and 132 strings. It’s all very country.
The Broken Circle Breakdown is on tour until 6 June across Flanders. Visit website for dates and places