Almost indescribable (akin to the process of trying to recover a dream, its essence continually eludes conscious apprehension), this piece by Belgian group Peeping Tom, the third in a loose family trilogy, propels itself mostly along the ferocious strength of its sheer confounding, eye-popping visual energy and verve. On evidence, its contemplation of the state of childhood is troubling, locating within it an almost anarchic psychosis, a condition without regulation of boundary or limit, not only creatively or imaginatively, but morally and ethically.
The lead character (embodied by mezzo soprano performer Eurudike de Beul who cuts quite a disorienting, overgrown figure riding a child’s bike in her short red-skirt and ankle socks) often stops to have a tantrum that dramatically escalates to full operatic bellow. Trapped within a tight space between forest edge and cliff wall (both of which pulse with menace and from which treacherous, unexplainable figures-human or otherwise- occasionally emerge), she is witness to-and often complicit in-terrible acts of incomprehensible violence.
Elastic dancer Yi-Chun Liu enacts a jaw-dropping balletic sequence as her body flops and heaves and twists under a barrage of bullets fired indiscriminately and inexplicably from a rifle (first brandished by a threatening local male, soon placed into the hands of the young protagonist who proceeds to orgiastic release). That it is predominantly the Asian performers who are imperilled hints at a cultural theme not fully addressed. There is the sense of a corrupt adult world which bleeds down to the child, helpless in the face of poor example of conduct, adrift without nurture. A forensic team periodically appears to clear debris and cleanse the environment. At certain points, and quite unexpectedly, Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes cross the mind; David Lynch would very much appreciate the surfeit of surreal musings.
This is far from a cosy, romanticised view of the child, instead a minefield of terrifying, anxious impulse and whim, a landscape of traumatic experience. With relentless eerie, eccentric imagery (an undulating earthworm, an unsteady hybrid human/deer, trembling ovular discs that disgorge scuttling creatures, an arboreal newborn trailing umbilical roots), this will haunt the mind even in the daylight hours. Whether or not it adds up to any sort of thematic coherence, or is anything beyond a bravura collection of unsettling sequences, this expressive descent is unforgettable on a primal level. Child (Kind) continues through 25 January