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Barbican - January 2018

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AS WELL as the RSC’s Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus, the Barbican has four productions running in January as part of the London International Mime Festival 2018.

Petit Théâtre de Gestes – Bêtes de foire – in The Pit from Tuesday, January 16 to Saturday, January 20.

Bêtes de foire is an intimate circus, tinged with nostalgia, where artistry, puppetry and object theatre combine. Surrounded by old clothes, mannequins and bric-a-brac, a seamstress tinkers with assorted fabrics in her workshop, reassembling materials of all kinds while her antiquated sewing machine provides musical cues for her fellow performer’s routines. He, a little down-at-heel but clearly talented, launches into an eccentric dance, juggling precariously with hats and disappearing props.

A supporting cast of mechanical characters, including tightrope walker, acrobats and one-man band, adds to the mystique of an itinerant fairground show.

Elsa De Witte and Laurent Cabrol performed with French street theatre and travelling companies before founding their own miniature circus universe. With echoes of Tadeusz Kantor and Alexander Calder, and the sensibility of silent film, this is a feelgood performance of surprise, wonder, offbeat humour and exceptional skill.

L’Insolite Mécanique – Lift Off (Je brasse de l’air) – in The Pit from Tuesday, January 23 to Saturday, January 27.

In this mysterious world of shadow and light, mechanical installations come alive, illuminating Magali Rousseau’s childhood dream of achieving flight. An enigmatic yet charismatic artist tells her story of a little girl wishing to escape by becoming a master of the air.

As she leads the audience to different parts of the atmospherically lit stage, her simple words become a symbolic force for this promenade performance in which exquisite metal creatures emerge. Some small, some very large, each is an actor, a work of art in its own right, set into action through steam power, flame, time or weight, all playing their part in this ingenious theatrical tale.

Rousseau’s astonishingly engineered machines are born out of a career working in set and prop design. Collaborating with musician Stéphane Diskus, whose live clarinet playing heightens the unusual ambience, she relates a most personal memory: how trying to fly became an act of resistance. A journey into the imagination, then, for all the dreamers, young and old alike.

Peeping Tom – Mother (Moeder) – in the Barbican Theatre from Wednesday, January 24 to Saturday, January 27.

Peeping Tom evoke a dreamlike universe, at once disturbing and oddly humorous, to explore the archetypal figure of the mother, in a production of astonishing physicality that defies characterisation.

Taking audiences into a series of recognisable spaces, including a museum, music studio and maternity ward, this non-narrative work draws on the memories of the show’s director Gabriela Carrizo and those of her performers to trigger disquieting reflections about motherhood.

Suffering, desire, fear, life and death are unexpectedly intertwined in Mother (Moeder), which shies away from neither the subconscious nor nightmares, reflecting the unstable atmosphere of a David Lynch film. The soundscape has a cinematic quality, sometimes amplified to disconcerting effect. It is matched by surreal visual imagery and imaginative choreography where bodies bend, flip, isolate and contort.

Peeping Tom’s 32 rue Vandenbranden, seen at the Barbican in 2015 as part of the London International Mime Festival, won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.

Toneelhuis/FC Bergman – 300 el x 50 el x 30 el – in the Barbican Theatre from Wednesday, January 31 to Saturday, February 3.

Theatre and film are ingeniously interwoven in a wordless production that follows the inhabitants of a small village community gripped by the fear of an impending flood.

Six humble dwellings sit in a wild forest clearing. At first, only their exteriors are visible. But when joined by a live camera crew, surreal, peculiar and humorous slices of life are captured and revealed on a big screen. From the mundane to intimate, sinister to absurd, a symphony of symbolic and unsettling images emerges.

Young Belgian theatre collective FC Bergman is creatively experimental and daring, devising visual and poetic work with an anarchic edge. The story of Noah’s Ark – the show’s title alludes to the vessel’s dimensions – is the starting point for this production, which touches upon hidden desires, the search for life’s meaning, the beauty of human failure and, finally, hope.

With a cast of thirteen actors, 300 el x 50 el x 30 el unfolds to a soundtrack that includes Vivaldi, The Persuasions and Nina Simone.

For more information or to book tickets, call the box office on 0845 120 7511 or visit www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/theatre-dance.