By Stefan Nicolaou
Hilum from the French Les Antliaclastes company conducted a journey into a sinister underworld of disused utilities and abandoned souls. Cobwebs and stained cabinets bordered a rusted washing machine: a simple and claustrophobic space of endless malleability. Deformed puppets crawled out of the their surroundings and burst into activity. Long-forgotten creatures, left discarded in a murky underworld, were hybrids of skeletons and every other nightmarish biological ‘other’. Their mischievous exploration of their dank surroundings became a showcase of uninhibited playfulness. Hilum, initially inspired by the cycles of a washing machine, played with an uncomfortable and twisted collision between reality and terrifying fantasy; between the threatening and merely theatrical.
The four puppeteers, clad in white gowns deftly and charmingly manipulated the characters. They were impeccably practised and awe-inspiringly talented; creating seamless action that drew you in. Despite being part of the grand imagery of the production – as ominous domestic overlords – it is telling that the puppeteers often stole attention in the more lackadaisical segments of the production. In some instances, the characterisation felt a tad dull and ironically lifeless; however, whilst some audience members remained indifferent others couldn't help but giggle.
Hilum’s brilliance lay in the sudden acceleration into claustrophobic scenes, while the central washing machine spawning an infant was a surreal surprise. The Story of the Lonely Pubic Hair was a humorous detour that offered some lightness before returning to the dark cannibalistic world of the basement. The finale was chaotic, deconstructing the Humpty Dumpty fairytale with vicious impact. An invasive score accompanied throughout. The visual stimuli and accompanying grinding music created an uneasy atmosphere.
Hilum’s pit was inescapably engaging, although the lack of a conventional narrative was challenging, the dissociative action did not necessarily stop enjoyment. Les Antliaclastes encapsulated a theatre of cruelty masterfully, transferring a giddy concept into a cyclical and corporeal domain. The end result left spectators nonplussed; occasionally unable to form positive or negative reactions. Most importantly Hilum remained engrossing, meriting its current sold-out run.