Female Arts (London)

★★★★★ [Five Stars]

The Krumple is an international theatre company, based in Paris and Oslo, made up of graduates of the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, and although Go to Sleep, Goddamnit is their first creation, it was a fluid, playful, contained piece, with a rich aesthetic, which seemed to come from a confident and experienced company.

The narrative was told through well-developed physical storytelling, and the characters all wore full masks throughout (all other skin on show was also painted white, an important touch which created a unity in the characters’ presentation); no characters spoke. The story was a simple one, of a disillusioned priest, contending with both a non-existent congregation alongside personal and existential crises of his own.

With remote control organ music, and a mini Yamaha for the quirky and subversive organist, he tries to juggle the worlds of ancient theology and modern technology. With a chalkboard to tally his monthly congregation attendance on the underside of a painting of a saint and a bunch of keys which won’t behave, we observe his daily battles and his restless nights. Played by, Oda Kirkebø Nyfløtt, she expertly captures the essence of this character, with subtle mannerisms and a restless energy that mirrors his mental state.

All the performers used their hands to great effect; as their faces are frozen in the mask’s expression, their emotions and thoughts had to be embodied, clearly and very physically, and I felt as if the actors’ hands replaced their eyes as the window to the characters’ soul. Vincent Vernerie, Jo Even Bjørke, Jon Levin also gave excellent performances, with neat and acutely observed characterisation meaning the multi-role-playing was seamless and it was impossible to tell which actor was playing which character. They say on their website that ‘Straddling the boarders of France, Norway and the United States, The Krumple seeks to create a language without borders through the expression of the human body’ and they were faultlessly successful in that endeavor.

Highlights of the show were the scene where the priest’s wife adds dinosaurs to the Bible in pencil, when playing with her own model Noah’s Ark, the competitive relationship between the women who support the church, and the priest dancing with his thurible. The use of the meditation tape, with its pseudo poetic language and discordant piano, took the whole performance to another level of sophistication, and beautifully played with the mental state of the characters and the audience’s perception of reality. The climax at the end of the show not only was impeccably performed and directed, but also negotiated the balance between comedy and tragedy with finesse. This was aided by the superb lighting design, by Oscar Wyatt. Jesus tucked under a napkin was the perfect closing image. A fantastic piece of theatre.

(c) Kate Massey-Chase 2013