Independent on Sunday 26.1.01
While it is metaphorically dog-eat-dog in Orton’s world , the victims of an airplane crash are literally turning to cannibalism in The Ballad of Bobby Francois. Part o f the International Mime Festival, this boldly experimental piece is performed by shunt in a dilapidated cavern behind London Bridge Station, and it’s not for the nervous.
Brace yourself for a simulated plunge out of the skies. The audience starts off milling around in a shabby departure lounge where hostesses, sporting comic nylon wigs, dole out barely reassuring hugs. Then everybody is herded into skeletal jumbo jet cabin, the lights go out and there’s a screech of failing engines so loud your body shakes. Next thing you know, you’re in a vast sea of fog where eerie whistles are punctuated by burst of jungle music. From the mist emerge bedraggled survivors who cling, like post apocalyptic acrobats, to a perilous totem pole of industrial spools.
Shunt do not sustain their initial momentum. Their storytelling can be expressionistic to the point of obscurity. And with dialogue, they barely engage with the conflict between chronic hunger and the taboo of cannibalism. However, this company are thrillingly inventive and their bleak picture of the universe has a lasting impact.
(International Mime Festival @ The Drome, Stainer Street, London SE1)