The Berlin-based company FAMILIE FLÖZ was founded in 1994 and has pioneered a new European mask theatre. Their stories are developed in a creatively collective process and every production starts out with a new ensemble. After presenting their sell-out shows Teatro Delusio, Ristorante Immortale and Hotel Paradiso, these masters of mask theatre explore the friendship of three men, from infancy to old age and the reality of death in their beautiful production Infinita.
As the audience pours into the auditorium we see the shadow of a gravedigger doing his work. A dog is trying to play with him. Shortly thereafter, a seemingly endless queue of mourners arrive, paying their final respects. One of the mourners, a man in a wheelchair, leaves the shadows and enters the stage, placing one red rose on the grave. A cellist plays a contemplative melody and as the man in the wheelchair listens to the music the scene changes to a toddler who is learning how to crawl. The little boy is taken to nursing school for the first time. Locked into a playpen, he plays with his ragdoll until a girl tries to take it away. After a wobbly start he quickly learns how to stand and manages to retrieve the doll, hitting the girl with it as she runs away. Soon he gets company from two boys who join him in his playpen and they eventually become friends.
The location alternates between the nursing school and a nursing home. The old man in the wheelchair is a new arrival and at first he tries to escape, just as he did when he was taken to nursing school for the first time. Yet he accepts his fate, just as he did when he was a small boy. He soon discovers the piano which keeps him occupied whilst his house-mates go about their business: the tablet junkie attempts to snatch the tablet-case from the nurse and after getting his fix, hops around the stage like an agitated chicken; the bully dominates everybody else but the nurse is immune to his charms; the incontinent untidy character who carries his bedpan across the room on rather unsteady feet makes everybody in his path cringe. The parallels between the toddlers and the old men are striking and presented in a very comical way, reminiscent of the slapstick in silent film. One highlight is the radio scene when the men are sitting together on a bench listening to music but there are problems with the aerial which badly diminishes their enjoyment. Whilst the bully is holding on to the radio, the others are trying to fix the problem with hilarious results.
This is skilful character comedy with a dark edge. Although there are many funny situations that leave us laughing about ourselves as well as about the action on stage, there are also sad and touching moments as death is an inevitable part of the performance. The expressive masks by Hajo Schüler and the excellent work by the four actors – Björn Leese, Benjamin Reber, Hajo Schüler, and Michael Vogel – make their characters incredibly human and allow us to empathise with them. Mask work is alternated with shadow play, with the memories being presented in the form of a negative film, white on black. The atmospheric music by Dirk Schröder and Benjamin Reber adds greatly to this beautiful production.
The audience is completely involved in the show and seems more than pleased to participate in the performance as one of the toddlers kicks a gigantic soft blue ball into the audience.
This is mask work at its best. Be sure not to miss the next production by FAMILIE FLÖZ. 5/5
Reviewed written by Carolin Kopplin.
Infinita was shown at The Peacock as part of this year’s London International Mime Festival from Thursday 28th until Saturday 30th January 2016. For more information on the production, visit here…