Peeping Tom: Child (Kind)
Reviewed – 22nd January 2020
“There is some delicious comedy in this show, and magic too. But it is a dark magic. Possibly too dark.”
Child completes Belgian physical theatre company Peeping Tom’s family trilogy, Mother and Father having already been shown at The Barbican during previous International Mime Festivals. Their style is always extraordinary, inventive and surreal, featuring a cast of seemingly boneless dancers, detailed settings and atmospheric sound and music. Both Mother and Father have combined an unsettling darkness with fabulous comic moments, but with Child the question is, have they gone too far?
The Child is played by Eurudike de Beul, an adult mezzo-soprano. She seems to be living alone in a wood, formed by Justine Bougerol’s beautifully constructed set. The wood is next to towering cliffs; it doesn’t look like a friendly place. The child sucks her thumb, rides her little bicycle and observes the behaviour of the adults who come and go in the forest. And the adults behave very badly. It’s a violent place, this adult world, and a sexualised one too. The child is drawn to the adults, who largely ignore her. Nobody will look at the picture she’s drawn, she is solitary, not understanding this strange milieu.
There is a lot of violence; the Child hacks a ‘baby,’ a tree that turns into a sort of wooden infant, to pieces after attempting to breastfeed it. She shoots a hiker multiple times, in a sequence that is both disturbing and funny, as the incredible Yi-Chun Liu writhes at every impact, creating seemingly impossible positions as she is flung around the forest by the impacts. And she smashes someones head in with rock. The Child sometimes breaks into an operatic aria, showcasing de Beul’s excellent voice. One problem is that the Child is inherently unlikeable, despite sympathy for her situation I cared less and less about her as the evening wore on.
The violence is one thing, but it’s the sexual exploitation of the Child that oversteps the mark. She is kissed and fondled by passing adults, sometimes seeming to enjoy it, but also disturbed by the experience. This is a strange look at childhood; love doesn’t enter the picture, and the dark imaginings that are played out seem to come from a nineteenth century casebook of insanity.
Peeping Tom’s directors Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier work closely with their cast to devise and develop their shows. They are always thought provoking, as this certainly was. We are left wondering how much of the events are in the Child’s imagination, and if the violence she happily partakes in is intended to show the underlying tendencies of untamed human nature.
When a real child appears, and is threatened by Brandon Lagaer’s forest ranger, one of the only tender elements brings some warmth to proceedings, when the dead hiker appears, gently wraps her in warm clothes and leads her away. Is she dead? Dying? We don’t know. But at least someone cares.
There are some wonderful surprises and stand out moments; the appearance of the cast in back to front old man’s heads, scuttling like spiders, the tube/worm that is so bendy that it’s hard to believe there is a human inside. Maria Carolina Vieira’s cowgirl moment and Marie Gyselbrecht’s care for her baby tree. There is some delicious comedy in this show, and magic too. But it is a dark magic. Possibly too dark.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Olympe Tits
Peeping Tom: Child (Kind)
Barbican until 25th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: