As part of the Manipulate Festival, Compagnie Gare Centrale offers its audience a trenchant message about the diseased nature of materialism, culminating in a (literally) explosive climax.

It takes a while for Ressacs to get going. At first, Grégory Houben and Agnès Limbos look somewhat out of place, enshrouded by the intimidating space of the Traverse 1 – most of which is unused, their act constrained to a small, makeshift setting. Yet, like their characters, the actors create a lot out of very little, creatively using various instruments, props and accessories to tell their story. With their strong French accents, over-pronunciation of English, and a song here and there, Houben and Limbos tell us of a couple who find themselves in a “very terrible situation”.

Left with nothing, Houben and Limbos’ characters find themselves hysterically pleading God to return to them their big house, shiny red car and dog. The couple’s shallow priorities allow Houben and Limbos to effectively make a mockery of their own characters’ desperation in an absurdist manner. What is even more impressive, however, is how the actors manage to charm us into liking these petty and selfish individuals. For as the couple continually finds themselves with nothing, they manage to find a way to earn back their riches at the expense of others.

Through the couple’s various business ventures, Ressacs makes blatant references to the history of colonialisation – of the white man (and woman) assuming themselves to be the superior race. In keeping with the self-centred nature of the couple, Houben and Limbos limit the representation of those being exploited, reducing them to questionable props and dolls they play with on their small world stage. Although Ressacs tries to be matter-of-fact in its critical commentary, its most jarring moments are undermined by the play’s copious comedy. It is unsettling how quickly an image of violence is replaced by farcical humour; the scene may have an impact on some audience members, but to others the message may be lost or even misinterpreted.

The play continues in this wave motion of the couple going from rags to riches. The repetitiveness of their struggle feels tedious at times, yet still makes a point about the couple’s tunnelled vision of happiness. In the end, the audience are encouraged to question their own privilege, and consider the day-to-day situation of those who are less fortunate.

For the most part, Ressacs is a quick-witted play that playfully ridicules today’s consumerist world. Unfortunately, it runs the risk of allowing the audience’s laughs to drown out the critical message it strives to portray.