It's surely the most heartfelt piece of film criticism on record. In 1939, Boris Vian - French novelist, poet, surrealist, subversive and jazz musician - died of a coronary while watching a cinematic travesty of one of his novels, I Spit on Your Graves. Paul Hunter fixes on this bizarre fact and makes it the recurring point of reference in I'm a Fool to Want You, the show he has conceived and directed for the physical theatre group Told by an Idiot.
A droll, captivating mélange of mime, curt dialogue and superbly played jazz (from the pianist/composer Zoe Rahman and the trumpeter Mark Crown), the piece could almost be subtitled Scenes from the Death of Boris Vian. As the Left Bank bohemian expires in the fatal attack, fractured episodes from his past and from his horrified recollection of the grotesquely bad film are played out like distorted images of each other. It becomes clear that for such a passionate jazz-lover, being Caucasian was a fate that you strove to live down. His craving to become an honorary member of the art form's royalty is affectionately sent up in deadpan scenes such as the one when he goes to a barber's with an LP cover and asks to be made to look like Dizzy Gillespie ("This could take the whole afternoon"). "You're not black," objects the ticket lady at the cinema when he explains that he is the author of the original novel. "I could be," is his enigmatic reply.
There's a ludicrous inversion of these impulses in the cod-hardboiled story of I Spit on Your Graves, in which a black youth (decked out in a blond wig) improbably passes himself off as white so as to infiltrate the affections and the knickers of a rich, racist heiress and so eventually avenge his lynched brother. Stephen Harper's bemused, down-to-earth Northern manner makes him a deliciously incongruous and strangely affecting Vian.
From a fresh, left-field approach to biography, we move to a lovely reinvention of autobiography at the Pit, where Bobby Baker is reviving her Box Story. Here the great housewife superstar of alternative theatre measures out her life and its many disasters in packets of food. Ripping them open, she scatters their contents, creating an impressionistic map of the planet. She makes you laugh out loud at her trademark combination of ordinariness and eccentricity. But this perceptive artist can show you fear in a box of Ariel or heartbreak in a tin of Colman's mustard. The latter substance evokes the beach picnics of family holidays and her father's drowning on the day she received her wonderful O-level results. A subtly feminist and heartening reclamation of the Pandora myth.
'I'm a Fool...' to 22 February (020-7223 2223); 'Box Story' to 14 February (0845 120 7527)Reuse content