I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Life in a cold climate
It's ironic that the title of this production, by the Olivier award-winning Peeping Tom dance company, refers to a specific address because its setting could be anywhere freezing and remote. The absence of specific geographical information, however, doesn't distract from its impact but rather, adds to our empathy for the protagonists.
The set design is stunning, from the lighted windows of the trailer homes to the street lamp glowing amber and most of all the backdrop of a vast sky, filled with swirling clouds. It looks like the kind of setting Alfred Hitchcock might have chosen if he'd ever made an Icelandic drama. It feels so cold to look at that Ernest Shackleton might have taken one glance and gone off to find somewhere warmer.
There is great physical comedy, especially in the early part of the evening. Seoljin Kim is particularly watchable as he struggles and fails to stay upright with the heavy load he is carrying on his back. Later, the way he struggles to hold onto his umbrella will strike a chord with anyone who has ever gone out into a gale and realised that there is little protection against extreme weather.
Amongst the other dancers, Maria Carolina Vieira's double-jointed dexterity is a marvel to behold. Hun-Mok Jung prowls around the stage with a combination of vanity and slight menace.
There is some dialogue in the production, which is directed by Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier, but on the whole we are left to make sense of what is going on via the movement and physical interaction.
Peeping Tom 32 Rue Vandenbranden c Herman Sorgeloos
There were times when I found myself admiring the skills of the performers, rather than feeling fully engaged with the human drama. However, the narrative arc, which, broadly speaking moves from comedy to poignancy, is compelling. Much of the drama focuses on doors, with the characters struggling to escape from the dangers and cold outside or from the emotional storms inside.
The whole experience is a bit like watching a silent film and the soundtrack is particularly important to the overall mood shifts and dramatic impetus. It includes Bellini, Stravinsky and what sounded to me like a jagged, electronic, techno motif which ran throughout the production.
Peeping Tom 32 Rue Vandenbranden c Maarten Vanden Abeele
The climax of the evening features, what was for me the musical highlight - a rendition of a Pink Floyd classic by the company's singer Eurudike De Beul.
However, it is the sound of the howling wind that opens and closes 32 Rue Vandenbranden. It's a reminder that we are all children of nature but also completely dependent on its mercy for our survival.
The actress-dancer Maria Otal, who in spite of her advanced age shone in Le Sous Sol, contributed to the creation. She died unexpectedly in Brussels, 10 days before the premiere of 32 Rue Vandenbranden. Peeping Tom dedicated the performance to her. A photograph and flowers were brought on at the end of the evening, as a tribute to her www.peepingtom.be/en/productions/2#tour