32 Rue Vandenbranden

London International Mime Festival 2015
Peeping Tom (Belgium)
Barbican Theatre

Peeping Tom Company in 32 Rue Vandenbranden Credit: Herman Sorgeloos
Peeping Tom Company in 32 Rue Vandenbranden Credit: Herman Sorgeloos
Peeping Tom Company in 32 Rue Vandenbranden Credit: Herman Sorgeloos
Peeping Tom Company in 32 Rue Vandenbranden Credit: Marten Vanden Abeele

David Lynch has moved from Twin Peaks and Mullholland Drive to the god-forsaken 32 Rue Vandenbranden. Not for real, of course. Lynch fans will know exactly what I mean; the rest of you will have to read on.

The wind howls, the land is covered in ice and snow, mountains loom on the horizon against a big open sky, two young men arrive laden with baggage at a remote rundown trailer park. What are they doing here, these funny stumbling foreign men?

What are any of the inhabitants doing here? Who are they? Do any of them know? Reading the set, focus is tennis match divided between the trailers on the left and the right, the odd comings and goings, the crossings over, the domestic abuse.

And what about the baby smothered and shoved under the trailer? By a pregnant woman, whose loneliness invites anything the wind blows in. Why is she washing her windows with vodka—the ultimate demistifier / demystifier—spat from her mouth? Check out its freezing point.

Inner longings play out, desires acted out in karaoke and masturbatory fantasy—no one is looking. But they are. We are, and the happy winter holidaymakers—what have they stumbled on? Sex and violence in an incestuous community…

Stumbled into the grotesquery of the subconscious. Rubber souls and rubber bodies contort painfully—in extremis. A girl corkscrews on the floor, a couple joined at the pelvis make up, a woman vanishes from behind a door.

Illusion, delusion, rain falls from an umbrella and a pulsating heart is ripped from the breast. People slip and slide, pratfall, flip like tumbleweed, fly in the air, play in the falling snow: baby seals coming home to mummy for a suck on the breast.

Surreal, supernatural forces playing tricks with the mind. Who is that belly-shaking shamanistic woman on the roof? What a voice she has, but is it genuine or is she miming Casta Diva?

All is suspect, all is deception and decoy when the real and surreal, when logic and illogic swop places. Is that man pimping, are there bears out there? Rifles are carried and aimed straight at the heart.

Danger everywhere—the pregnant woman is dragged away to return minus bump. Abortion, sadism—a woman offers herself to her man and gets shaken like a rag doll for her pains—and bizarre comedy. Well, the LIMF audience laughs. Is it nervous laughter?

Seems not. I find it harder to crack a smile at the desperate comédie humaine however much the company gurn and grind. Munch’s The Scream of Nature takes shape.

Trapped by psyche, by ‘their roots, their family or their culture’ they cannot escape. That alone chills the soul and blows away any chuckles. Huis clos, for sure. Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!

And what about those torsos bared to the elements: one minute they’re in furs, the next in vest and pants or knickerless in skimpy shift in the snow. Wriggling like fishes on a hook before they die on that cold mountaintop.

Eighty unrelenting minutes, six unnerving creator-performers, a vast cyclorama set to suggest that empty night of the soul, an ominous cinematic soundtrack of bleeps and evocative songs, 32 Rue Vandenbranden conceived and directed in 2009 by Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier has already won several awards, as have many of their other works.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

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