Barbican Theatre, London
January 24, 2020
Horror is a genre of timeless appeal and in Child, the completion of their family trilogy, directors, Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier, take it to extremes.
The orphaned child is a stock character to tug at the heartstrings, but not so this magnificent child, Eurudike de Beul. Oversized and clothed in an odd assortment of garments, her hair neatly tied in bunches, she rides an undersized bicycle in endless circles. She smiles a lot but her slightly goofy expression triggers warning bells. She is given to excess, bursting into passages of Wagnerian Liebestod in a glass-shattering voice. Not content with just shooting the hapless traveller (Yi-Chun Liu) she continues to fire, emptying the barrel into his comically writhing figure. Yet there is appeal in her rejection of any moral code, her untrammelled free-thinking that makes you want to try to awaken her latent humanity – if she doesn’t shoot you first.
Peeping Tom are a collection of extraordinary performers, mime artists, contortionists and actor/dancers with extraordinary bodies that morph into a worm, a deer in stilettoes and most disturbing of all, into naked four-legged bodies with heads screwed on backwards. The forest dwellers are all positioned on the psychotic spectrum and only the campers have a semblance of normality. The bounds of reality are continually stretched and in the midst of the mayhem it was unnerving to see a real child, a little girl, on stage.
The trees in Justine Bougerol’s set, a full-on German Romantic forest, have their own personalities. A sapling breaks through the soil with a baby cry. A woman cradles it like a baby, but it’s attached umbilically to big mother and all hell breaks loose as she tries to steal it away. Eurudike, too, has a brief nurturing moment as she suckles a weird meerkat-like creature before, in true Lady Macbeth fashion, plucking her nipple from his mouth and flattening him with an axe.
The forest ranger who kills because that’s what he does, or his girlfriend who thoroughly enjoys it are both terrifying in their outward normality, the sort of ordinary folks who might go on a bender in a school yard. The world that the Child is creating is both absurd and chilling. It’s a performance that disturbs but engages and is impossible to ignore.