de l'Ange Fou are described as followers of 'the father of modern mime',
Etienne Ducroux. However, The Orpheus Complex is not so much
a mime as dance with occasional soliloquising and song - a kind of dramatised
physical theatre. The piece illustrates the struggle with the desires
for life and death, upsetting conventional formulations of this relationship.
begins with Orpheus (Kentaro Suyama), half-crazed and taking refuge
in the bottle. This behaviour draws to him the Angel of Death (Corrine
Soum). She captures his attention and he makes as if to follow her.
Opposing her is Doctor Ahriman, head of what appears to be an asylum,
or, as it is described in the programme, a 'dysfunctional family'. Inmates
mutter repetitively that they have 'seen the future'; or they are obsessed
by the past, as is the Nostalgic Fury, engagingly played by Arianne
D'Angio. They parade a range of human conditions. The Doctor proposes
to cure Orpheus by application of the 'Orpheus myth'. He quickly casts
his maniacs into roles of Hades, Charon and Eurydice.
Doctor Ahriman tries to attract Orpheus's attention to Eurydice but
it is obvious Orpheus is still equally dazzled by the Angel of Death.
When Eurydice dies and he descends into Hell to follow her, it appears
to be as much because of his death wish as any loving bond. Theatre
de l'Ange Fou cleverly evoke a protracted staircase descent into Hell
with just a revolving door, a projected screen showing fiery clouds,
and crawling, squirming figures that conjure up souls in torment. Once
actually in Hell, the white-winged figures evoke Angels rather than
the traditional damned, turning expectations created by the Dante-like
descent on their head. A criticism would be that the action that takes
place whilst actually in Hell is less effective than the descent and
also rather curtailed. The play becomes more obscure as Orpheus is tried,
then released, saving Eurydice. But back in the madhouse his defiance
again results in her loss and finally his own.
Another problem for me was that Orpheus is so in love with Death that
he seems to have no interest in Eurydice, so there is no real sense
of a conflict or struggle with opposing desires. However, one suspects
that the important thing about this play is really the wonderfully composite
moving images created on stage, lit like Gericault's Raft of the
Medusa (highly creative lighting by Matthew Britton) and the fantastical
costumes, rather than the plotline. The piece is reminiscent of the
eccentric, somewhat disconnected French fantasy of Jeunet and Caro's
film The City of Lost of Children. At its least effective the
swirling motion occasionally becomes a little repetitive, not to say
soporific; at its most effective it creates a striking and idiosyncratic
The overcoming of physical limitations that is seen in traditional mime
is most called up by Kentaro Suyama as Orpheus. He appears almost weightless,
with every movement graceful and serving to further articulate the drama.
Max (Jorge Bettencourt) performs a more humorous kind of mime which
hints at the manifold skills of this group.