Father (Vader)

Reviewer's rating

Peeping Tom is really one of the most exciting companies in Europe. And it is thanks to the Barbican and to London International Mime Festival that we get to have them back in London after last year’s Mother. If only we could see more of their work more often.

Last year’s Mother – again presented as part of LIMF – had blown my mind, so returning this year to see the second show of their family trilogy, I had high expectation. They certainly did not fail to meet these expectations. The choreography is phenomenal, the dancers incredibly skilled and able to impress you even with the tiniest of gestures. And yet, what is outstanding about Peeping Tom is how masterfully they blend surrealism with realism. With their unique dream-like style they create a show which is dance, theatre, mime and so much more than that.

After their exploration of the mother figure, this piece creates a vivid portrait of ageing through the father-figure. The piece explores isolation, dignity, and the pain that comes when one stops being self-reliant. Set in a care home, the company employs dance, live music and singing to create a whirlwind of enigmatic images and sequences. At the centre of it lies the relationship between a father and a son, but this relationship keeps looping at the course of the piece: with the son gradually becoming an aged father himself as time passes. Indeed, one of the most striking symbols of the piece is the circularity of life and the endless looping of situations.

Set in an old people’s house, we follow an aged father becoming an infant and witness all the other residents of the care home being unable to cater for themselves. The main father of the story is totally reliant on his son – who only visits every Monday – in order to get dressed, to be taken for a walk, and to be told what to do.

The staff of the care home gradually become more and more identical and faceless. They keep sweeping manically the floor without ever really caring about the old folk. The sense of time running out is constant in the piece; the son complains to his father how they only have thirty minutes available to go for a walk and how they should rush. It is a shocking reminder of forgetting to give your loved ones, especially as they grow old, the time they need and deserve.

The figure of the father keeps shifting and turning. There is never only one father. The father symbol is at times god-like and at times disconnected and disillusioned. It is a fading symbol which reminds us of the transience of life.

The dream-like quality of the whole piece is perfect in managing to capture how the old person’s perception of the world, of people, and of time itself changes. Time often appears to slow down, the world appears to twist and turn and to distort. Music becomes noise, speech becomes non-sensical, and gestures become incomprehensible. Is it memory, reality or hallucination? The balance keeps tipping and the world keeps shifting. It is funny, absurd and yet deeply melancholic and enigmatic.

A truly stunning piece of visual theatre, which mesmerises the audience and