Barons Perches review at Platform Theatre, London – ‘clever and surreal’

Compagnie MPTA's Barons Perches at Platform Theatre, London. Photo: Christophe Raynaud
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Acrobat and trampolinist Mathurin Bolze returns to the London International Mime Festival with a mind-bending and utterly compelling sequel to his 2005 show Fenetres. It’s based on Italo Calvino’s philosophical novel The Baron in the Trees which tells of a high-minded young nobleman who shuns the degradations of the world to live alone in the treetops.

In Barons Perches, this solitary character encounters a doppelganger in the form of Karim Messaoudi, a mysterious figure that suddenly appears in the baron’s seemingly rather petit-bourgeois arboreal cabin, which is actually designed with astounding ingenuity. Built around a trampoline, it’s a climbing frame-like structure of windows, doors, shelves and pot-plants with tables and chairs that fold neatly from the walls. As Bolze potters around, Messaoudi drops like a deadweight from a trapdoor and springs back from whence he came, all in a shocking millisecond.

From then on there’s a lot of bouncing. Somehow the laws of physics and human heft combine to create visions of awe-inspiring aerial beauty. It’s incredibly intricate, as Bolze and Messaoudi fearlessly backflip and tumble in tandem through barrel rolls and twists. They scale the walls, perch on shelves and land with simian softness on each other’s shoulders. They even put on jackets mid-bounce or slither in and out of windows with metronomic timing. Their interactions are an ambivalent mix of fraternal familiarity and hostility, as the trampoline allows for a benign embrace to transform into a vicious shove or recoil – a circus of human emotion rendered bewitchingly visible.

 

Verdict
Extraordinarily clever and surreal circus show that asks existential questions by challenging gravity
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