Time Out 14.2.01
Based on Alive! the true story told in both a novel and a film of how the survivors of an air crash in the Andes were forced to turn to cannibalism to survive, ‘The ballad of Bobby Francois’ is an astounding piece of theatre- an immersive experience – that begins quite literally with the ticket purchase. The usher air hostesses take our ‘boarding cards’ before leading us from the departure lounge into an enclosed space, created out of cloth, that is the plane. We’re offered peanuts, earplugs even as the deafening surround sound effects tell us that our plane is taking off. So far, so arty. Then the really terrifying theatre begins. Our plane breaks up in midair, throwing us all into a tailspin crash so shockingly real your find yourself almost checking your own body parts for damage. The cloth flies away and we land in the open cavernous space of The Drome, a disused railway arch, amid the wreckage of the flight, and settle to watch the actors recreate the post-crash moment. With mime and gesture bathe in pathos but combined with lashing of black grotesque humour, they lead us through the journey from extreme cold and isolation to near starvation, before arriving at the dilemma that has been spring-coiled from the outset: how to deal with eating another person. The effect of their story is disturbing and moving yet freakishly amusing.
Shunt tip their hat at the De La Gaurda style of theatre but provide a narrative to boot and carry it off with style. Radical, original, incredible – but not for the squeamish.
(International Mime Festival @ The Drome, Stainer Street, London SE1)