300 el x 50 el x 30 el review at Barbican, London – ‘bold, biblical, bizarre’
Belgian collective FC Bergman took the title of its mime-meets-cinema spectacular, 300 el x 50 el x 30 el, from the dimensions of Noah’s ark.
This is pretty much the only clue as to what on earth is going on. This show is a visual feast. The large cast (15, swelling to 95 by the finale) create a series of surreal images that largely bypass narrative in favour of showing how the impending apocalypse might feel.
The community await the end of the world in a village of wooden huts. part Scandi-noir, part survivalist compund, at the edge of an imposing forest.
Thomas Verstraeten and his camera are pushed around the perimeter of the settlement, broadcasting secrets behind closed doors onto a big screen. The pace of his rotations set the tone of the revelations: creeping round corners like a peeping tom, working up to a dizzying sprint.
It’s funny but unsettling: a child repeatedly murders an apparently immortal pigeon, a game of darts turns sinister, a woman gives birth to conch shells. The feel of the piece is sometimes delightful, often disturbing.
When a young couple try to break free it creates a change in atmosphere. A creepiness descends as the villagers’ clowning morphs into religious fervour – it’s mass hysteria, perfectly choreographed.
FC Bergman is a company unafraid to go big and bizarre with its gestures, tableaus and design. This is old testament fire-and-brimstone stuff, showing how the desire for self-preservation can cost us our humanity.