by Philippe Quesne and CAMPO.
Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 28 June 2014.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 June.
Large in scale, but achieving little.
This year’s London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) ends with a piece for 16+ performed by 13 people aged 8-11. Children’s theatre for adults, it comes from Belgian company CAMPO, under director Philippe Quesne.
Next Day is puzzling. If the aim is to open-up the world as perceived by young minds and emotions, it’s strange to make the setting a supposed training-ground for superheroes.
Whatever went into the process (and participants’ comments in the programme suggest they learned a lot from creating the work), the result comes across as well-drilled, adult-directed work.
The strong opening impression, as the company run around the stage, is largely created by theatrical energies outside the performers – the set pieces being moved around or the amplified ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ with its ever-louder, faster repetitions, from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt music.
There are pauses later, one excruciatingly long as a wall of foam blocks is built, the performers invisible behind them. And the piece culminates in a long monologue as one young performer details his personal ambitions.
That comes closest to what the piece is purportedly about. But why is only one voice heard, seemingly thinking much of the speech up as it’s being made (there’s a similar hesitancy to the offstage English translation in this London performance)? Far from opening anything up, it come dangerously close to being forced to listen to the family show-off doing an endless party-piece.
The large-scale theatricality can overwhelm any kernels of truth that start coming to light among the cast. Yet indulgent elements in the audience clapped whenever possible and laughed at anything. In one unexpected moment a cast member fell while clambering off from the curtain-call over the extensive detritus of the set. Two others helped carry them off. It’s a welcome sign of generosity. But when it’s clapped by audience-members the unintended impact is patronising.
Young people’s theatre deserves to be judged by standards as high as any theatre. This is mostly show, with little that’s dramatically adventurous. There’s better almost any month home-grown at the Unicorn, and many other theatre companies around Britain.
Performers: Marthe Bollaert, Tijle De Bleecker, Mona De Broe, Sven Delbaer, Fons Dhaenens, Lisa Gythiel, Lars Nevejans, Flo Pauwels, Sien Tillmans, Camiel Vanden Eynde, Lizzi Van de Vyver, Ona-Lisa Van Haver, Jaco Win Mei Van Robays.
Director: Philippe Quesne.
Live Translation: Allon Sylvain.