Fringe Review: The Infant

Prague Fringe Festival 2007 Theatre Review: A toddler becomes a terror suspect in Les Infants Terribles' dark and disturbing comedy

Oliver Lansley's absurdist black comedy The Infant is, in the end, neither absurd nor comic as its subject matter is more frightening than comic and more real than absurd.

It is a testament to Lansley's writing, James Seager's confident direction and solid performances from all that this intelligent short play can be played with such delightfully wicked humour whilst seriously examining the current climate of fear and politics of paranoia.

Writer Lansley and Adrian Der Gregorian are a superb double act as a pair of interrogators/government agents who have brought a man into custody because of a picture that his four-year-old son has drawn.

The agents -- slick, fast-talking Samedi and the more nervous and dishevelled Castogan, are alternately funny and frightening -- delivering their terrific text with style, rhythm and outrageous pace.

Neither the father (Cooper) nor the audience know at first why he is in custody and unfortunately the play falls a little short when Cooper is first unhooded and questioned -- actor Tim Brown's performance is so earnest in his first exchanges with his interrogators (one of the few places where the text is less assured) that the show slips out of its absurd and satirical context and it's a few minutes before the timing and pace return.

All is set aright with the simple device of a tea break and we are privileged to watch the interrogation continue -- here Lansley's writing is at its satirical best, employing and subtly playing with the now-ubiquitous language of terrorism/anti-terrorism; at one point an agent shouts at Cooper -- "You have stolen our peace from us."

Cooper is slowly drawn into believing that his son may be, in fact, an evil genius toddler-terrorist; the ridiculousness of this situation is seriously underscored by the questions it implies: is Cooper doing this out of self-preservation or, in the current political context, are we that predisposed to believing such paranoid nonsense?

In time, Cooper's wife Lilly (very well played by Sarah Kirkland) is also brought in and we are treated to a series of clever theatrical devices including split scenes, repetition and role-reversals.

The direction is taut throughout and the simple set used to its full advantage as the relationships between the four characters shift and slide until no one is sure of their loyalties, truths, desires or duties.

The Infant at times lost its tight, darkly comic menace as it started to take itself too seriously; these were brief moments, however, and the real seriousness could be felt with more force underneath the parody and satire.

The Infant

Writer: Oliver Lansley

Company: Les Infants Terrible

Theatre: Divadlo Na prádle

Performances daily at 7:30pm until Sunday, June 3rd, 2007.

Video on YouTube

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