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Review: Kefar Nahum

Posted on 22 January 2010 by Jake Orr

There is complete darkness in The Pit Theatre at the Barbican. A strange and alluring soundscape fills the dark. Then somewhere ahead in this darkness, shapes emerge. A caterpillar, an old man, a plume of smoke drifting upwards. In fact, it is just a white sheet being manipulated in the darkness. My imagination is at work here, and I honestly believe that this sheet is the form of two characters sitting on a wall, their dialogue echoed in the atmospheric sounds behind.

This is the work of Belgium based Compagnie Mossoux-Bonté the collaboration between Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté. Their work fuses together the crossroads of theatre and dance, but in Kefar Nahum they explore the manipulation of objects through puppetry and animation.

Kefar Nahum is a dark piece blending the creation of life in objects and material to their destruction through violence of objects. Another feature at the Barbican Theatre in association with the International Mime Festival

It is quite astonishing the way in which the mind works during this performance. It is not that the material is questioning something deep or philosophical but rather our imagination suddenly engages and gets to work. As the object manipulation takes place, narratives are formed – but not through dialogue but through voices inside the mind. There might be a watering can being moved on the stage, but to me, this is the last of the great birds of the south, finding it all rather surprising to come across another person – in this case, the puppeteer.

Whilst Kefar Nahum is a great stimulation of the mind, the ever changing scenes, the fluttering of moments between objects and narratives leaves little for through lines, and fails to completely engage me as an audience member.

Perhaps we’re not even meant to connect with the piece, for other than the puppeteer herself, everything else used are nothing more than inanimate objects, scattered items that have to be brought to life. How can we connect with something that once hands move away from it, they fall off the front of the stage onto the floor – as is the case throughout the whole performance.

If anything this makes me wonder if the piece is for an exclusive audience, and how accessible it is for a larger audience. Whilst there is no narration, and the language is formed through the movement of objects, this object manipulation isn’t for everyone. Unless you’re willing to get lost in shapes and forms that appear in the curves and folds of fabric or disused objects you won’t find much in Kefar Nahum.

It is a shame that once again we have a sinister puppetry show for adults – where are all the simple adult puppetry that don’t deal with the themes of violence and manipulation of being?

Kefar Nahum is part of the International Mime Festival and also part of the Bite 10 Festival at the Barbican Centre. The show finishes on the 23rd January 2010.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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