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Peeping Tom: Child review at Barbican Theatre, London – ‘hugely inventive and mercilessly bleak’

Eurudike de Beul in Peeping Tom's Child at Barbican Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The final instalment of Belgian dance theatre company Peeping Tom’s neurotically fraught family-based trilogy, Child (Kind) is the most daringly dark of them all, unsparing in its juxtaposition of violent imagery and pitch-black humour.

The child of the title – played by adult performer Eurudike de Beul – has no connection to any nurturing parental figure. She’s a lolling, uninhibited little figure riding a red bike around a forest flanked by jagged rocks.

Every image is one of menace or warped innocence – a surreal creature with a deer’s head but recognisably human legs in high heeled shoes gets lassoed and pulled apart within minutes by a reckless woman in yellow. She represents a morphed kind of mother, her male counterpart a deeply sinister forest ranger brandishing a rifle: a monster of casual cruelty and sadistic play.

Having blankly shot a wholesome hiker, he then instructs the girl in gun technique. She peppers the body with bullets while the corpse’s limbs hurl and heave with a sickening limpness.

The bonelessly bendy physical language (seen also in Moeder and Vader) becomes a dance of dysfunction, revisited on the child – the ranger thrusts with ecstatic elasticity while gleefully threatening another camper, while the woman in yellow folds, flips and flings herself through paroxysms of blind fury.

Child is full of queasy moments, with sometimes graphic depictions of abuse. Its means are bizarrely bold – bald scuttling men with back-to-front bodies emerging from eggs – but the emotional pathology portrayed is all too real.

Father (Vader) review at Barbican Theatre, London – ‘absurd, astonishing and deeply moving’

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Final instalment of Peeping Tom’s family trilogy is hugely inventive and mercilessly bleak