You might imagine that a rainy Wednesday night in Huddersfield is one of the less likely places that you might happen across a theatre well-stocked with eager viewers for a French-language, avant-garde homoerotic fantasy. But you would be wrong.
Six Degrees Below the Horizon by the boundary-stretching theatre company Imitating the Dog, currently on a UK tour, began life as a British Council-funded collaboration with the National Theatres of Greece and Cyprus. Previous performances in a sun-soaked Athens went down very well indeed – as it is did in sleet-lashed West Yorkshire.
The piece was previously performed under the title Tales From the Bar of Lost Souls. Part cinema, part live performance, the show tells the story of a father moved to a sweltering death bed confession to the daughter who he abandoned as a child. A small team of actors lip-synching along in French to English sub titles take us back to the sailor’s earlier life in a seedy early 20 century French port where having jumped ship, our hero struggles to come to terms with the restrictions of land-locked existence whilst simultaneously enjoying the sensual benefits on offer around him.
Inspiration is drawn from the works of Jean Genet, the French modernist writer whose own early life as a vagrant cum male prostitute mirrors that of the play’s hero. Other influences include the German Frank Wedekind, sexual adventurer and forerunner of German Expressionism, and Bertolt Brecht. But although it drops some big names in the publicity material it is far from inaccessible or lofty – a fact attested to by the appreciative young audience who marvelled at the production’s technological wizadry, its wit and the outsize phallus that adorns the early part of the action.
This is an evocative if brief exploration of the life of the outsider and the idea that good people can do bad things - set to a beautiful musical soundtrack. It took a little while to tune into the aesthetic but once you get there it does linger appealingly in the memory afterwards.
Touring: Axis Arts Theatre Crewe; Exeter Northcott Theatre and Contact, Manchester to 9 May