Looking back at Anywhere, it’s difficult to put into words what you’ve just seen and do Le Théâtre de L’Entrouvert’s work justice. There is little to the performance plot-wise – a father and daughter embark on a journey together – and the show runs just shy of an hour in length. Yet, in those 50 minutes within the Barbican’s Pit, you are utterly transfixed at the stunning visual theatre created by Hélène Barreau and Élise Vigneron.
Of course, Anywhere is not about just any old father and daughter pair. Based on Henry Bauchau’s novel Oedipus on the Road, the play’s action follows the events made famous by Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, as the now-blind Oedipus has a new complex he needs to overcome. Exiling himself from his loved ones, Oedipus embarks on a journey with no end in sight. His self-inflicted punishment is interrupted, however, by his daughter, Antigone, who decides to journey alongside him.
With this stripped-back storyline, Théâtre de L’Entrouvert presents a raw, elemental performance that blows its audience away. Experimenting with fire, water, wind and earth, performers Barreau and Vigneron offer a beautiful display of the human condition and our natural instincts to want to love and protect one another. What is even more incredible is how they achieve this through the interactions of Vigneron as Antigone and a human-shaped puppet made of ice – controlled by Barreau on the edge of the stage.
The ice puppet of Oedipus is simply a marvel to behold, offering copious symbolic meanings to those watching. Not in control of his own body, from the outset his vulnerability is made clear to the audience. As Oedipus and Antigone brave the elements, we witness an old man struggle to accept the love his daughter has for him. With this comes a transformation of his body – from starting off cold, hard and protected by an outer shell, his concealed fragility eventually becomes exposed, and from thereon begins to break apart. Barreau’s puppetry is remarkable – the old man’s movements are soft and gentle when his true nature is first revealed. His human counterpart is equally mesmerising. Vigneron’s demeanour is often delicate yet wonderfully evocative as she tries to keep hold of her father; moments of relief as she holds her fragile father eventually give way to anguish as she feels him (literally) slipping out of her grasp. The audience comes to share Antigone’s patience as they long for Oedipus to give in to her; even though every time she grasps him, there is the chance his whole body may break.
The staging and soundscape that make this journey come alive is a feat of ingenious creativity, as we listen to the rough cracking of the slate under Antigone’s feet as she carries her father and the ominous, continuous dripping of water as the performance progresses.
Anywhere‘s ending is abrupt, and the uncertainty as to whether the play has finished is reflected in the long, silent delay before the audience’s applause begins. For some, the end may feel premature, as they wish for a more conclusive end to be reached. Nevertheless, such longing reflects how enraptured the audience are by Théâtre de L’Entrouvert’s artwork. It is no surprise that Anywhere’s run at the London International Mime Festival was sold out before the festival even began.