Reviewed – 9th November 2019
“Substituting substance for random acts of nudity or faux-malfunctions simply cannot cover the void that the performers’ lack of control over the show creates”
There’s a moment in European Freaks where one of the Euro-Humanoids threatens that if the committee of audience members on stage doesn’t make a decision within two minutes, the show will end. At least I think it was supposed to be a threat, although frankly it would have been relief for the show not to have spluttered on any further.
European Freaks, devised by Hungarian group Stereo Akt, is a view into what would happen if we tried to create a new version of the European Union. The four actors portray robots called Euro-Humanoids who are carrying out the experiment, although why they are robots and why they’re creating a new EU is never especially clear. There’s a huge amount of audience participation involved – a number of members are sat at special tables at the front adorned with fruit, wine, and water where they had to complete tasks such as coming up with a new motto for EU 2.0, and all the audience were involved in polls and live soundscapes that informed the show. However, the stars of European Freaks were five audience members who appeared to have been pre-selected to form a committee who spent a significant proportion of time on stage and having to undergo a number of challenges such as designing the EU’s new flag and anthem.
The voyeuristic aspect of watching non-actors grappling with these tasks on stage was hugely enjoyable, particularly when they had to tell personal and discomforting stories about themselves, which were illustrated live to excellent effect. However, the naturalism of these aspects were thrown off-kilter by the absurdist actions and reactions of the Euro-Humanoids, whose schtick wears thin exceptionally quickly. Substituting substance for random acts of nudity or faux-malfunctions simply cannot cover the void that the performers’ lack of control over the show creates – their ability to bounce off the contributions of the audience members and guide the narrative with any sense of structure is deeply lacking, encapsulated most vividly in an instance where one actor launching himself at one of the special tables knocked the jug of water on it onto an audience member’s lap. Sloppiness such as this destroys any level of trust that the audience can place in the performers and the story they’re trying to construct. Chances are European Freaks won’t leave you physically damp, but for all its bold ambitions, you’ll feel theatrically sodden by its end.
Reviewed by Ethan Doyle
Rich Mix as part of Voila! Europe 2019
Last ten shows reviewed by Ethan Doyle: