Mister Sandman, bring me a dream: Peeping Tom’s enchanting parallel universe (‘A Louer’)

A bunch of people on all fours, hurriedly moving around like mice, hiding behind old furniture. I’m guessing that will be the image that my mind will attach to A Louer, to remember it by. But there are plenty of other possibilities. A statue suddenly coming to life. An opera diva with a voice resembling a hurricane, blowing people away. A guy simply disappearing in a chair. Want to view this negatively? Then you could argue that Belgian theatre company Peeping Tom isn’t really offering anything surprisingly different or new, with A Louer, which premiered at KVS (Brussels). I’ll side with the optimists. Once again they succeed in stopping time for just a short while. Once again they succeed in offering a piece that resembles a spellbinding comic-book: you keep on flipping those pages, wondering what’s going to happen next.

For 32 Rue Vandenbranden, their previous one (review here), they took you to a cold and icy mountaintop, for A Louer they invite you to a warm, aristocratic salon, with a couple of old chairs and a sofa, a piano, and lots of red curtains. It’s supposed to be a burnt-out theatre, according to Gabriela Carrizo & Franck Chartier, who formed Peeping Tom in 2000. Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of David Lynch’s legendary Twin Peaks, will immediately think of that series, right from the moment the legs and feet of the Korean servant of the black-clad lady of the manor start moving in a really strange way.

The starting point for A Louer? ‘A situation in which someone is telling you something and you drift into a reverie, and start thinking of something else. You are no longer listening and find yourself in a parallel world.’ And so A Louer ends up being a performance in which the boundaries between memories, visions, dreams and nightmares become blurred and time gets warped in a weird way. Everything is for rent, they say, hence: A Louer (for rent). Am I the only one thinking this explanation is a little bit far-fetched for this performance?

As always with Peeping Tom, the place of the action is the element that triggers their imagination. It’s what they are really good at, but it’s also their flaw. A Louer consists of a series of short scenes; don’t expect a story to develop. I had the impression that the setting of 32 Rue Vandenbranden inspired them to a greater deal than this salon, but anyway: this slow-paced performance once again possesses that typical, wonderful kind of Peeping Tom magic. One cannot but be enchanted by their mix of theatre, dance, visual effects and music. It’s well-balanced too: they could easily have overdone it with a couple of ingredients (the acrobatics of the two Korean guys, for instance).

Just one remark: too bad the scene which is sort of the climax of the performance (the old man singing Wild is the wind, at the piano) is playback (he’s lip syncing to his own recording of that song). If they would have had someone really singing and playing, Peeping Tom would have floored everyone. On the other hand: nicely done, the way in which all of the actors slowly greet the audience, waking from this strange and beautiful dream. If the Sandman ever needs a replacement, he knows who to turn to.

Tour schedule here.

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