It was back to the Barbican last night for the final part of the incredibly talented Peeping Tom’s “family” trilogy, part of the London Festival of Mime at the Barbican. The show was called Kind (Child) following on from the previous years’ offerings entitled Moeder and Vader. As I have already written extensively about these two shows I’m going to keep this post fairly brief rather than repeat things which I have already said (“That’s never stopped you before!”) For these earlier posts please click here and here.
What was distinctly different about Peeping Tom’s latest piece is that I was watching as an audience member rather than the participant I had been in the previous years. This did not, however, lessen the sense of wonder and amazement as the scenario unfolded. Followers of the group’s work will know that trying to set out a plot line is a fruitless task – there isn’t one. Rather there are a number of set pieces around the theme of childhood which somehow create a unified whole. These pieces flow from one to another seamlessly; any set changes become part of the piece. The interior settings of the previous shows have been swapped for the outdoors; specifically, the edge of a moonlit, menacing forest and a stark cliff face which features at one point an impressive rock slide. It is all appropriately reminiscent of the sort of fairy tale landscape in which childhood stories are often set. Into this landscape dressed all in red – and literally riding – comes a young girl (who, quite obviously, is far from a young girl) on her bike. It would seem that here is an adult revisiting her childhood, exploring memories and traumas that have formed her grown up personality. And what traumas they obviously are laced with neglect, latent violence, abandonment and sexual abuse.
Kind seems to be less humorous than the earlier two pieces; it is often more palpably nightmarish and disturbing. The soundscape (I note there were six people who worked on this) is invested with menace and adds to the tense atmosphere – even a happily tweeting bird transforms into something threatening. And visually the piece is dark and disturbed; a tree attracts and then attacks one of the performers, rain falls inside a tent rather than outside it, a rifle features heavily even if it sometimes contains dribbling liquid rather than bullets. The twisting, contorting bodies of the performers appear even more amplified and extreme than in previous years (though one might think that would barely be possible) and I’m sure the scuttling backwards facing figures that inhabit the landscape towards the end of the piece featured in my dreams last night.
Directed jointly by Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier, there are only four performances of this piece. So, if you want to see something totally out of the mainstream yet richly rewarding, I urge you to get down to the Barbican quickly. Until then, and in order to explain more eloquently than I can ever hope to do, here’s the usual visual taster: