Review – Oktobre at Southbank Centre

Part of London International Mime Festival 2015

Oktobre, Oktobre (France) —

oktobre

«Si  vous voulez, on peut danser»

The world of Oktobre is a world that defies penetration. It is a world of illusion and non-sequiturs, of supreme circus talent and surreal shards of narrative. It is what happens when an acrobat, a trapeze artist and a magician sit down to have tea.

Stills as if form a horror film are set up on stage: a woman in a red dress holding a magic balloon, a ghostly doppelganger hiding under a table. When the try to sit down, they end up repeatedly killing each other with plenty of heads slammed against tables. A second act mirrors the first, replaying snapshots from act one but twisting them with each reenactment. The woman in the red dress is a man; the balloon is no longer magic. The mutual killing frenzy is now stylized with red powder and sound effects. The three performers find themselves stuck in loops, each of them ending up as the woman in the red dress at one point during the show.

Even though the on stage world is unfathomable and impenetrable, still the performers, mostly without words, create distinct characters: Jonathan Frau is a clownish acrobat who causes mischief, and builds a whole knockabout routine out of trying to pick up a ball. There is a brilliantly daft spin on the classic ball and cup routine as deadpan magician Yann Frisch tries to drink a glass of water and keeps finding little red balls inside his cup. He plays it out as if it’s all accidental and out of his control.

Eva Ordonnez-Benedetto plays a fearsome Mrs Danvers figure in black cloth and a tight bun. She executes a consummate trapeze act in which she lazily slides down the bar in an attempt to reach the floor. Slowly, gazing mournfully and longingly at the mat below, she hangs on by the tiniest ridges of her body – gripping the trapeze bar with her calfs, or hanging from the bottom of her ankle where the foot starts to protrude, her whole body, suspended by this millimetric curve. The routine looks like she just cannot unstick her body from the trapeze bar. And still, barely even registering the strain, she maintains a placid expression.

Their world has no logic, the show has no theme. It hangs loosely together by its concentration around a tea table and the occasional attempt to eat their meal of water and crackers. All three seem completely bewildered by the bizarre fantasy world in which they find themselves, but trying desperately not to let on. They just go with it. Its gloriously ungraspable nature, the way it follows its own demented internal logic, recalls Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk. Maybe there’s something deeply symbolic going on, maybe it’s just bizarreness for its own sake. Either way, it dances joyously between the boundaries of humour and horror, frenzy and tranquility, careful skill and infantile abandon.

And if their charm and grace did not come across in the performance (they do), they clinch it by verbally thanking the tech team by name, and then inviting the (pretty large) audience to come and drink with them in the bar.

 

Southbank Centre, Purcell Room until 25 January 2015.

Tim Bano

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