32 rue Vandenbranden | Peeping TomLeft – Marie Gyselbrecht and Seoljin Kim. Photo – Herman Sorgeloos

Belgian physical theatre company Peeping Tom were first seen in Melbourne as part of the 2009 MIAF with their work Le Salon. This year, they return with their 2015 Olivier Award winning production, 32 rue Vandenbranden. The production is a hybrid of theatre and contemporary dance, employing moments of magic and illusion, and includes an eclectic range of music from Pink Floyd to classical, sung live by mezzo-soprano Eurudike de Beul.

Set atop an ice capped mountain, the stage is covered in snow with two trailer homes parked either side. A pair of outsiders arrive in the tiny town, and upset the delicate power balance. While there are moments of unrequited love and painfully shy obsession, contrasted with scenes of domestic violence and struggles for power, the audience are constantly kept off balance, and are never quite certain of what is real and what is in the minds of the characters. The production employs no overt narrative, instead offering many potential strands which the audience are free to associate or not. At times explosive and angular, at others, fluid and gymnastic, the performers are uniformly strong and bring a wide range of movement styles.

According to their website, the company has a fascination for huis clos – the world of the characters behind closed doors – and in 32 rue Vandenbranden large windows into the trailer homes allow the audience to peek into the interior lives of the characters. We watch them as they transition between their private worlds and the public space at the centre of the stage. This constant switch between interior and exterior, the public and the private realms of the characters, creates a tension that runs throughout the play.

In the post-show forum, the performers described the process of creating the work, a process that took six months. Taking inspiration from the mountain setting of the play, and utilising films, photos, music etc, the performers would arrive each day and be required to prepare 'compos', brief works of composition, which might range from short solos to magic tricks. From these isolated pieces, the directors would begin to string them together, creating longer and longer works, allowing themes and relationships to emerge organically. The process can be seen in the end product, and each performer is given their own space to shine.

In 32 rue Vandenbranden, Peeping Tom have created an engaging work, with a mix of humour, violence, whimsy and menace, and will keep you thinking throughout the performance and beyond.

Melbourne Festival presents
32 rue Vandenbranden
Peeping Tom

Concept and Direction Gabriela Carrizo & Franck Chartier

Venue: Southbank Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: 8 – 11 October 2015
Tickets: $69 – $25
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 | 136 100

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