The Fahrenheit Twins @ Barbican Pit, London

cast list
Hayley Carmichael, Paul Hunter

directed by
Matthew Dunster
Adapted by Matthew Dunster and Told by an Idiot from Michel Fabers short story of the same name, The Fahrenheit Twins explores the lives of two children born to scientist parents in the Arctic.

But, whilst visually the resulting production is rewarding, the ideas expressed on the page do not survive the transition to stage quite so well.

Two eminent German scientists go to live on a remote Arctic exploration station to study the native people and gradually become detached from other human beings as they only study the Inuits ‘from afar’ and have little contact with Germany beyond the retention of their cuckoo clock.
As their two young children grow up neither parent has much time for them; their father is too engrossed with his studies (amongst other things) to show any interest in them, while their mother gets carried away with the idea that they are now free-spirited children of the Arctic – which is what they consequently become.

The children become captivated by the idea of ritual and even kill an Arctic fox each spring to ensure they never grow up. Their joyful existence ends abruptly, however, when their mother dies and the children take her body on a journey to allow the universe to decide how to dispose of it.

Unfortunately, the theme of shattered perfection isnt all that interesting when presented on stage. As the children go on this journey, growing cold and hungry as various mishaps arise, they learn that life isnt the blissful entity they once thought it was. The production, however, doesnt go much beyond making this simple point, and though the unique context within which these children learn it is important, it still remains a fairly obvious and uninteresting observation.

The production is visually very striking, thanks in part to Naomi Wilkinsons intelligent and versatile set which consists of a revolving stage covered in snow and sporting a dramatic icy slope on one side and the familys dwelling on the other. The first ten minutes are also highly effective: in these early scenes we see the parents fly to the Arctic and establish their home, carving furniture and giving birth to their children. There is no spoken dialogue, but the actions of Carmichael and Hunter, performed to the soundtrack of David Bowies Young Americans (also used to end Lars von Triers Dogville), tell us all we need to know.

These two perfomers play all the roles, the children and their parents as well as dogs and Arctic foxes, by switching from one character to another with a simple flick of their fur-fringed hoods. That the staging seldom strives for realism also contributes to the dramatic effect. The toothbrushes stand out far more by sporting bells rather than bristles because we can both and see and hear when they are being used.

It is only in these glorious first few minutes that Matthew Dunster’s production really thrives; from this point in, the lack of a strong narrative and a moving central thread becomes ever more apparent and after starting on such a high the only direction to go is down.

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