Kiss & Cry – Charleroi Danses: Barbican Theatre, Barbican Centre, London, 1 February 2017

Digit all

Standing on point. Charleroi Danses' Kiss & Cry

Standing on point. Charleroi Danses’ Kiss & Cry

Kiss & Cry is simply incredible; it’s arguably the most beautiful, inventive, clever and most heart-breakingly melancholic show I’ve ever seen.

It should be a mess really. The stage is full of technical equipment and there are several small scale set models dotted around. In the middle sit a pair of computer boffins ensuring the live feed of the action being filmed is edited seamlessly onto a cinema-size screen at the back. Seven other people dart around in various guises, such as camera operators, prop people, technicians and actors. By rights they should distract hugely from the main focus of what’s being presented on the screen but somehow, they don’t; they’re very welcome participants in the night’s entertainment, especially in the piece’s short but exquisite denouement.

And for the reason for the big screen, the object of our attention? To show the story of Gisèle and the five lost loves of her life using the art of motionless miniature models and, more poignantly, very mobile and expressive hands.

It’s difficult to describe what the resulting handiwork looks like because there’s so much variety in what’s on offer. One moment there could two pairs of hands making love, the next they’re representing two heads poking out the top of a duvet. Another hand spends a leisurely few minutes ice-skating and a different scene has a pair staging a brontosaurus rape. And who would have thought it possible for one hand to so clearly demonstrate the evolution of the human species from sea creature to walking land animal?

The filming of it all is an astonishing achievement of timing and ingenuity and the integration of moving objects and static models is brilliantly judged. All kinds of unusual camera angles and manual special effects are employed and the fact you can witness first-hand how they’re being done somehow adds to the undeniable sense of magic that prevails.

I can’t stress enough how good Kiss & Cry is. For something to be this well-made and performed is remarkable enough. For it to also provide such a moving emotional experience is beyond words to credit.

Kiss & Cry is part of the London International Mime Festival and runs at London’s Barbican Theatre until 4 February 2017. Tickets can be found on the Barbican website. The good news for the rest of the world is that it regularly tours internationally too.

Gerard Davis

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