We are on the outskirts of an anything but pleasant forest. On the right side of the stage a last tree-line defends its secrets, while on the left we see a bare cliff of white rocks. A liminal space, an in-between. In it, Eurudike De Beul plays a child. This woman, a short, fifty-something opera singer with long grey hair, groomed in two Pippi Longstocking braids, is the driving force of the show. Kind is a long stroll across the universe of her whiny and somewhat mean character.
A child’s perception works in mysterious ways, but some things we know. Children can go from radical sadness to utter joy in a split second. Attention changes as swiftly as emotion, and every situation is an excuse to construct a new fantasy. Kind is structured in a similarly syncopated rhythm, and so we are jumped between dimensions, timeframes, story-lines, realistic and absurdist scenes; all cleverly and constantly organised around Eurudike’s outbursts and giggles. Her wish seems to be the piece’s command.
When it comes to content, the game is set quickly. Brandon Lagaert, playing the child’s father/forest guard, meets a hiker (Yi-chun Lui), and signals her to turn around. She does, and he puts a bullet in her head. Then, he hands the rifle over to his daughter. This we also know: a child learns by imitation, and Peeping Tom’s level of bravura when it comes to exploring the boundaries of the acceptable is as extreme as the childish intensity they want to portray. Thus, in Kind, the experience of violence and abuse is very much present. No sugar coating here: on the threshold between humour and perversion, the journey through this space becomes one of anguish and discomfort, sometimes even fear. Fear for the child Eurudike, but also for the really vulnerable entities making their appearance – a dog, a volunteering little girl – that make it all a bit too real.
Kind was preceded by Vader (2015) and Moeder (2017). Franck Chartier and Gabriela Carrizo went back to working together after taking the creative lead separately for the previous two works. And whereas in Vader and Moeder the same strategies were put into play to explode and approach the adult family figures from different angles – building evenly distorted representations within relatable, seemingly parallel universes – in Kind we are confronted with something we have lost. We are all strangers to this piece, even the makers and dancers themselves: during the show last night we were all looking into the depths of the same forest. When related to childhood, that is a feeling that gives you the creeps.
The particular theatrical interface between artistic disciplines Peeping Tom have carved out for themselves serves the final act of this trilogy extremely well. Kind is as discomforting as it is bewitching to behold.