Review: CARMEN FUNEBRE ****

THEATRE

CARMEN FUNEBRE

Pleasance at the E I C C Venue 150

August 16th to 19th

**** (Four Stars)

This stunning and unforgettable show takes place in The Square, an outdoor rigid space behind the E I C C. The audience gathers in the increasing darkness.

Eventually floodlights appear at each side, slowly moving around. Picking us out, watching us. These are held by men on enormous stilts. They retreat behind a tall structure facing onto the Square. Next they burst out from there, striding with speed and assurance, heads about fifteen feet above us, and with very unpleasant whips, which they snap loudly, coming right up to us to do so.

They then take some people out of the audience. These are cast members who are placed amongst us, but this does give a frisson of, “Me next?” to us all. These people are viciously chased around and then into the tall structure. Later only their clothes reappear.

Not all is nightmare. There is a rescue. A group of people send small lighted houses flying away into the air, a gesture which suggest hope. Later, there is burning, including of much of the tall structure, and cracked bells ring out.

This show, performed by the Polish company Teatr Biuro Podrozy, is often assumed to be about war. It seems to me to reflect a certain type of war, such as the civil conflict in the Balkans in the 90s (This show was first brought to Edinburgh in 1995 – I saw it then, and wanted to see how it had changed. It has, but only in small ways.) It also to me suggests the plight of a population faced by totalitarianism or fascism.

This is a very vivid presentation, which will stay in the mind. It is also extremely skillful. The men on stilts have great assurance. All of the cast are clearly fully committed to this extraordinary show. Anyone who has ever been bullied – which is likely to be most of us – can imagine that vastly magnified, and thus identify with the victims here. It is a show to waken to most politically complacent person in the city out of their slumber.

Tony Challis