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.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.