Mesmerising, mercurial and miraculously weird. There are an abundance of words to describe Peeping Tom’s production of Moeder (Mother), but these few typify the bizarre world in which you are catapulted in to. The main setting is a family run museum in which bizarre occurrences are as regular as intricate pieces of physical theatre. The consistent theme of the piece is motherhood and it follows a young couple’s upsetting journey in the world of parenting a severely unwell child. London’s International Mime Festival welcomes director Gabriela Carrizo’s dreamlike production from Belgium, the end result is a stunning 70 minutes of theatre.
The choreography is nothing short of miraculous. Carrizo creates an environment in which each story’s movements take centre stage. The use of the body in each scene is so good that it’s almost scary. When they are in full swing, the performers seem isolated from each of their body parts, almost as though they are puppets without limbs. They all move with such liquidity and beauty that the audience are thoroughly engrossed. One scene in particular has the audience cringing on the edge of their seats as it looks as though Brandon Lagaert and Maria Carolina Vieira are breaking their ankles with each and every trick fall. The cast are superb. Not only are they physically breathtaking, but also their comic timing is fantastic. The more naturalistic moments are dealt with proficiently and there is no doubt that everyone is perfectly in tune with each other.
It is easier to be impressed than moved in this production. There are certainly times where you are emotionally invested in the tragedy of the storyline. However, it feels as though the audience are more captivated with the sensational movement sequences than the feelings and thoughts of the piece’s intention. The comedy of the production is slick and hilarious. The characters are bizarre and well rounded, which makes them oddly relatable. There are moments where the obscurity becomes intensely silly. This is handled well for the most part, with the sincerity of the ridiculousness being played throughout. Perhaps it becomes too absurd for some, particularly the scene in which a woman falls in love with a coffee machine.
Amber Vandenhoeck’s set design is impressive and intelligent. The space is transformed magnificently to create different settings such as a maternity ward. There are enjoyable intricacies throughout that really capture the atmosphere of the piece, such as dust being blown off of old paintings. There is also the clever use of soundscapes that occur behind a separate screen and keep the two worlds separate.
It is easy to see why this production has been so well received around the world. The choreography and directional style is poetic and majestic. There is so much talent involved in each performance that it is scary. Their bodies tell a story that involves beauty, comedy and heartbreak all at once. It deserves recognition all across the globe and needs to be seen by lovers of physical theatre.
Moeder is playing at the Barbican until 26 January 2018
Photo: Tristam Kenton