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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Theatre review: BigMouth is enlightening

BigMouth features a dazzling and beguiling talent in a unique presentation.

Valentijin Dhaenens is from Belgium, where they obviously grow frighteningly original talent, with very creative imaginations.

Having read hundreds of speeches, with no particular purpose in mind, Dhaenens began to notice themes and contradictions among them. Putting them together into a presentation, Dhaenens highlights the power of words to manipulate. To heighten the theatricality, he also utilizes a synthesizer, and sings an eclectic selection of songs and sounds that includes everything from Gregorian chants to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

The stage is simple, with a long black table and an arrangement of five microphones set on top. Behind, a screen announces the names and years of the people he is portraying, from Pericles to Anne Coulter.

In one section Dhaenens hops back and forth between two microphones, intercutting speeches from both Nazi propagandist Joesph Goebbels and United States Army General George S. Patton. Both speeches are rallying people to war and use similar language, but their styles are completely different.  In another, Dhaenens rifts through a series of speeches by American political figures from the 1960s and 1970s, punctuating each message of hope from the likes of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King with the sounds of gunshots.

Dhaenens’ skill is remarkable, and the content fascinating and powerful. Lighting and sound design by Jeroen Wuyts brings dynamism to this provocative show.

BigMouth is not just about how people use words to manipulate, it is also about us. We are the ones hearing the words and choosing how to respond. That is enlightening theatre.

BigMouth directed and performed by Valentijn Dhaenens. SKaGeN (Belgium) & Richard Jordan Productions (UK). Presented by The Cultch. On stage at the York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until February 21. Visit for tickets and information.

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