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Manchester theatre reviews

32 rue Vandenbranden. Photo credit Herman Sorgeloos

32 rue Vandenbranden at Home

by Peeping Tom Productions

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall May 2016


Peeping Tom Productions have done it again. Despite the rather off-putting and foreign title to this piece of contemporary dance, physical theatre, and goodness knows what else thrown into the mix, they have proved once again that they really are the masters of Complicité. This very European style of theatre, still somehow strange and not fully understood or accepted in the UK yet, is being championed once again by HOME and its Artistic Director, Walter Meierjohann. Full credit to them for bringing the best of modern and forward-looking European theatre to our shores.


Using two static caravans and a snow-covered landscape, the six performers very cleverly allow us to be the voyeurs of their lives, whilst they themselves are the voyeurs on each others'. However, these are seemingly ordinary and rather mundane lives until things start to get a little bizarre and weird. And as the whole performance starts with a pregnant, drunken lady shoving a crying baby under one of the caravans and covering it with snow, you know this is going to be something a little different! Elements of the supernatural and powers from beyond seem to have manifested themselves in her, and with a good deal of Film Noir and Horror films' themes and ideas brought into the mix.


The performance lasted only 80 minutes without interval, and there was hardly any dialogue. Just a few words here and there; and yet the relationships between these six people were superbly drawn out in some of the most body-twisting and fantastical physical choreography I have seen.


There was even time for a couple of songs in the performance as one of the ladies proved she could quite competently sing an operatic aria, which worked beautifully with the choreography and the storyline. And there were some rather clever and funny effects used too. A suitcase stuck in mid-air, a bleeding heart, rain coming from nowhere etc. These little effects worked especially well when they needed to break the tension. As I have said it was something of a horror story, and no-one ends happily - in fact the story ends when one of them dies - however, there are still moments of humour throughout; not laugh-out-loud humour, but just enough to be able to take us on to the next part of the tragedy.


With the help of superb LX and SFX making violent gusts of wind and banging doors etc; these six performers - the inhabitants I am guessing of Rue Vandenbranden - were utterly mesmerising. The 80 minutes went so quickly and I didn't want them to finish!


The credit for this utterly compelling and fantastic (in the original old usage of the word) piece of complicité goes to the originators of the idea and directors, Gabriele Carrizo and Franck Chartier; with the six superb dancers / performers being Jos Baker, Eurudike De Beul, Marie GyselbrechtHun-Mok Jung, Maria Carolina-Vieira, and Seoljin Kim.

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