The opening scene of Lebensraum is all about the set (designed by Douwe Hibma and Ahlbom himself). It’s a one-room living space, crammed with ceiling lamps and inhabited by two men (Ahlbom and Reinier Schimmel) who make the most of their cramped conditions with a bed that upends into a cupboard with a piano keyboard, a sofa that doubles up as a storage chest, and a madcap system of ropes and pulleys that lets them pass the salt at mealtimes or swing a water bottle back into the icebox.
The scene is taken almost directly from the opening of Buster Keaton’s short film Scarecrow (1920), and the two men share Keaton’s blend of casual surrealism and deadpan seriousness. So too do the accompanying musical duo Leonard Lucieer and Empee Holwerda of the band Alamo Race Track – chameleon presences in patterned suits who blend into the flock wallpaper, emerging periodically to intone poker-faced songs with baffling lyrics.
At first, the piece seems like a chucklesome exercise in surreal, silent-film pastiche, complete with sight gags and pratfalls. But it shifts forward several gears – dramatically, psychologically, choreographically – with the arrival into this mechanism-fixated, object-oriented masculine world of an alien, female presence, in the form of a life-size doll that the two men have cobbled together to be their home help.
Jakob Ahalbom Company, Lebensraum photo Stephan van Hesteren
More Frankensteinian maid than monster, Silke Hundertmark pitches her role on the very cusp of ambivalence, her clockwork ambulations and toppling gait combining with glimmers of blank-faced mischief such that we can never quite tell, as the household tasks of sweeping, tidying and rearranging increasingly unravel into chaos, how far the men are losing control and how far she is disrupting it.
If the performers’ expert teamwork and comic timing are what carry the piece in the theatre, it’s that note of undecidability that creeps under your skin, and stays there long after you leave.
Age Guidance: 7+
|What||LIMF - Jakop Ahlbom Company, Lebensraum Review|
|Where||Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Holborn (underground)|
01 Feb 18 – 03 Feb 18, 19:30 Sat 14:30 and 18:00 Dur.: 1 hour 10 minutes no interval
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Well website|