LEBENSRAUM | London, The Peacock Theatre

As the stage is slowly illuminated, a drab and cramped room seems entirely unremarkable.  The first warnings that initial impressions may be misleading are when the bed folds away and becomes a piano and the bookcase opens into a glowing fridge-freezer.  A ruffle amongst the background reveals a pair of musicians (Alamo Race Track) charmingly camouflaged in chameleon-garb in which their suits match perfectly with the striped wallpaper.  What unfolds thereafter is a charming breakfast scene reminiscent of Wallace and Gromit in which two inventors share a meal in near-perfect synchronicity, performed by a melee of levers and mechanics.

Lebensraum pays homage to Buster Keaton in its use of the mime genre heavily loaded with slapstick humour.  Having established the complexities and illusions of the set to amount to a third character on stage, the appearance of a step-ladder or long length of cable are transformed from innocuous pops into inevitable sources of peril.  However, shrieks and gasps from the audience are testament to the production’s capacity to surprise and re-invent well-established themes: there’s no time for a tired thwack over the head with a frying pan when each and every item of furniture proves itself an illusion worth of a magician’s box of tricks.

The story takes a dark twist when the pair of earnest inventors create a robot maid to assist with the confines and limitations of their living space.  Our trio of performers gains a fourth and the already crowded setting descends into chaotic acrobatics and farce of the most perfectly crafted timing as the maid’s functioning falters and falls into a tornado of near-scrapes measured to the millimetre and sustained by the ceaseless energy of its cast.  Jakop Ahlbom’s Lebensraum is 80 minutes of captivating performance that soars past in a flurry of tumbles and twirls with a gag hit-rate that rarely stumbles.

London International Mime Festival continues until 3 February 2018.

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