More than any of its startling imagery, or its sometimes laboured humour, what makes this show so fascinating is Soehnle’s presence as a lone puppeteer. He is magician in chief, moving from puppet to puppet with a slow delicacy that sets the rhythm for the show as much as Johannes Frisch & Stefan Mertin’s brilliant music.
Two lithe, well-groomed middle-aged men sit naked in a sleek white bath, whispy spa vapours drifting across the blackness all around them. As the lights rise and fall in delicate, subtle patterns the two men each nurse a single Heineken, sweat slowly glazing their bodies as they wriggle and stretch in their luxurious confinement. They babble flippantly, incessantly, in soft German accents. Literally nothing else happens.
In the run-up to this production all the attention has been focussed on its context rather than its content. Here is a company, Belarus Free Theatre, banned in their own country, frequently imprisoned, performing shows in front rooms and secret locations; uniting political dissidents and private citizens in their opposition to an oppressive political regime.
For me this is what the Mime festival is all about. A confrontation with something startling and barely explicable (I have undoubtedly failed here). An absurd and hugely enjoyable spectacle that does not announce its meaning like a political address, but haunts you with a series of mesmerising movements and images and ideas.
As I took my seat in the characterless and sanitised Soho Theatre auditorium, I was in the strange position of knowing more about the process that went into making this show than the show itself. Tales had been aired extensively in preview pieces about 19 painful weeks of devising with a cast of male RSC actors who happened to find themselves between Shakespeares.