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Barbican Centre, London

The Belgian collective FC Bergman has created a surreal performance that sheds a bizarre yet totally captivating light to equally bizarre lives. In a forest clearing six wooden shacks, a pond and a silent angler smoking a roll-up make for a peaceful setting. Inside the shacks though a grotesque reality unfolds as a camera crew is tracking around the stage on a dolly track. The images are caught on a giant screen hanging above the set.

A sick old man connected to a drip and sensor pads on his chest, his sole company a pigeon in a cage. A family of four, watches the mother devouring bulimically a veritable banquet. One hut down, a mother teaches morosely her daughter to play the piano. Then comes the sexless couple, her suffering and moaning on the toilet seat, him fiddling absentmindedly with his limp dick – not hoping for much – while on the phone. A few rails down a group of men are swilling beer and playing darts. In the final shack, a teenage boy is blowing up with bangers a model of the village.

FCBergman 300 el x 50 el x 30 el 03

The camera crew makes another round on the track and then another and then another and so the whole performance goes and we are drawn in their stories, unwitting but certainly willing voyeurs. Our attention is split between the stage and the screens. We watch some scenes play out on stage and simultaneously on the screen at a different angle.

The story of Noah’s Ark – the title alludes to the vessel’s dimensions – is the starting point for this production and some religious imagery and symbolism is there, Christian and pagan, but what it mostly grapples with is our hidden desires and failures. Hopefully, a flood will wash all them away and bring hope or maybe destruction, and relief. There is no timeline and no discernible storyline, only a few events like the doomed romance of the teenage boy with the piano player, and the dead sheep that was dragged out of the pond and left hanging above the set that give us an illusion of a story but other than that it is a succession of surreal vignettes that keep us both fascinated and perplexed.

The 13-strong cast gives their best in a demanding piece of physical theatre with a finale so emotionally and physically intense that must have left them absolutely spent. “300 el x 50 el x 30 el is not a performance one could easily categorise and definitely would not easily forget. It draws us into an absorbing and grotesque universe that we unsuccessfully try to unpick long after the curtain comes down.

Congratulations to the mime festival for another successful pick!

  • Physical Theatre
  • Created and performed by FC Bergman
  • Cast includes: Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Bart Hollanders, Matteo Simoni, Thomas Verstraeten and Marie Vinck
  • Barbican Centre, London
  • 31 Jan—3 Feb 2018

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