Sex, nudity and smoke machines spark an existential crisis in T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. at the Barbican in Silk Street, EC2
SEX! Nudity! Smoking! Smoke machines!
Polished performances? No – Polish performances (I should read the adverts more closely). This is a Barbican-staged, Polish play based on an Italian communist poet’s film - with less than 1000 words spoken, so expect a truly arty audience. So what happens?
At first, nothing happens – slowly. The routine dullness of the industrialist and his family plays out in its slow surrealness. Then a stranger enters the house, shags everyone from the religious maid, the stuttering son, up-tight mother, crazy daughter, and stern patriarch. Thereupon, all question their identity, and, on the stranger’s departure, experience existential crisis.
The premise, based on a specific political and cultural conflict (1960s Italian politics) is hard to grasp – especially through the translated surtitles: why would the patriarch do what he does? Plus the stranger does not quite have the magnetism of the film’s young Terence Stamp. However, there are some great set pieces, haunting images, great juxtapositions of music, and genuine comedy (the son’s seduction is almost Norman Wisdom). Moreover, the marginal figure, Angelo, is fantastic as he snakes and dances his way around the stage. At two hours without break, this is long, puzzling, but a memorable spectacle.