Suspended in isolation
By Myron My
Performed as part of this year’s Melbourne Festival, Peeping Tom return to Australia with 32 Rue Vandenbranden which explores the isolation and loneliness that a group of people feel through the company’s trademark fusion of dance, physical theatre and music.
The stage design, which is how the Belgian company begins developing a new creation, perfectly encapsulates the emotional state of its inhabitants. High on a mountain-top, underneath an endless sky, sit three rickety caravans. The ground is covered in snow and there is an immediate sense of remoteness and desolation. The emotive sound composition by Juan Carlos Tolosa and Glenn Vervliet strongly adds to the feelings that the characters are experiencing, while mezzo-soprano Eurudike De Beul‘s musical moments in the show are an aural delight for the audience.
There are some beautifully choreographed moments in 32 Rue Vandenbranden including the opening performance between Jos Baker and Maria Carolina Vieira. Their subsequent duets are mesmerising to watch, as their bodies intertwine with apparent ease in equal displays of frustration and desire to connect with another human.
However, there is still a strong emotional disconnect between what is occurring on stage and what the audience is feeling. The stories that are being told and the character motivation for the movements in the piece unfortunately do not translate well, and along with the constant change in the tone and mood and beyond the stage snow, the show left me feeling quite emotionally cold.
Overall, the individual elements in 32 Rue Vandenbranden, such as the set design, the music and the performances, show the loneliness and hope that people experience in their attempts to connect with and build relationships with people. Ironically, it is this success with the aforementioned aspects that is also its undoing, resulting in a distinct lack of story and heart to the show and an unemotional response from its audience. Perhaps this disconnect is deliberately the work’s ultimate message.
32 Rue Vandenbranden was performed between 8 – 11 October at Southbank Theatre.