"My subject is
war, and the pity of war" wrote Wilfred Owen. In Les Enfants
Terribles' one-hour riff on that theme we are hurled into the grisly
carnage of the Somme trenches to focus on a miner called Bert, his
young volunteer-companion Colin and what happens when Bert's skills
take him deep underground in No-Man's-Land to tunnel towards a German
It's written and
co-directed by Oliver Lansley with an atmospheric score by
Alexander Wolfe. What the audience experiences is a concentration of
physical theatre at its most committed, allied to shadow play and the
sort of highly effective puppetry which reminds us that this is an
adult theatre skill, not just entertainment for childen.
There are three main
puppets. One represents Bert's wife, pregnant with their first child
when he joins the army. As his tunnel collapses, burying him with a
minute pocket of air and killing Colin, he hallucinates. Out of the
shadows creeps a sort of Nibelung monster, all prehensile claws and
raptor beak in a canine head. This sets him three tasks if he is to
The last of these
presents him with a murkily winged apparition, perhaps the
personification of mustard gas. As in all allegories concerning man's
desire for the unattainable, Bert's "reward" is not what he
expects, but what he may have been seeking without recognising it.
The language is poetic, rather than demotic, but the symbolism is
handled superbly and with the utmost sincerity.
Les Enfants Terribles
is one of those companies which neglect to identify its design team
or the actors. So I can only tell you that the cast is uniformly
good, and that the design elements, both scenic and lighting, add
their weight to the total effect.