Theatre On the Fringe: The Lost Child On tour n Fourplay Lyric Studio
Wednesday 17 February 1999
Thousands were shown The Hansel Gretel Machine, which explored instances of abandonment through a mime version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and their own answering experiences have contributed to the textless sequel.
Glass and his team - four actors, two designers and composer Jonathan Cooper - have fashioned a black-and-white "series of dream pictures" which are as redolent of Luis Bunuel as the acknowledged inspiration, Lewis Carroll. They are accompanied by a sound-track that bombards the car with drum-rolled gunfire, sampled gurgles, mournful loops of piano and a legion of occidental-oriental effects. But the non-specificity of The Lost Child gives rise to unease and confusion: images of brutalised or vulnerable youngsters are put to a metaphorical use which, while never entirely clear, seems to put the loss of innocence that comes with adulthood on a par with the traumas children can suffer at the hands of adults.
The piece takes the form of a quest conducted in and around a small proscenium theatre. A pregnant woman (Gretel) goes through a looking-glass in search of both her mirror-self and a man who beckoned her (Hansel). Her unborn baby is removed by a white-faced baldie with rabbit ears and a bandage- masked sidekick in a trench-coat and bowler hat. As creepy as the kiddycatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this sinister duo tyrannise the children who live beneath the stage where they spend much time committing solvent abuse or blowing up polythene dolls, depending on how you look at it. You can't fault Glass's inventiveness - there are some striking coups de theatre with masks and fairy-lights - but, repeated in combinations that defy decoding, they leave the audience stranded. So much emphasis is placed on structure that it ends up looking hollow.
In Sergi Belbel's interestingly flawed anti-farce Fourplay, directed by Hans-Peter Kellner, an elaborate formalism is deployed to point up an inner emptiness.
In 38 brief, cut-up scenes, punctuated by cheesy incidental music, we are teased about what goes on when a sexless married couple bring two friends (male and female) together, with the bizarre motive of inaugurating their new bed. How much "action" takes place is thrown into question when suggestive scenes are repeated with more context: what might have been a lesbian embrace proves to be a slip-up on a pool of vomit; the smell of sex becomes the odour of tobacco puffed by Belbel's miserable quartet. The Catalan playwright has been compared with Pedro Almodovar, but the neurosis on display here is skin-deep, used to make points about consumerism and entertainment that would have been better served with less contrivance.
`The Lost Child', Birmingham Mac, Fri/Sat, (0121-440-3838) then tours; `Fourplay', Lyric Hammersmith (0181-741 8701) to 20 Feb
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Best underrated Christmas movies from Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga