A new 80 min show from emerging theatre company Barking Hearts is currently on at The Space, written by Tom Barr-Forrest, who also takes on a leading role as Scott.
An Oubliette is a hidden dungeon accessible only by a trapdoor in the ceiling: here, prisoners Scott and Jasper (Oli Wyatt) find themselves forgotten and slip into play and fantasy.
A “fantastical tragedy-meets-farce, chock full of camp and macabre musical medieval magic,” Oubliette is a grotesque exploration of the human psyche viewed through a comedic lens.
In the press release, Barking Hearts mention the influence of Monty Python to their work, and I can certainly sense that in the voice and absurdity of the show, as well as hints of the classic pantomime and the type of magic realism practiced by former theatre innovators Kneehigh.
Defying catagorisation, Oubliette can be classed as Brechtian and Blackadderish (Milla Olsen’s Eunice is surely a close cousin of Mrs Miggins) while also reaching back to Man of La Mancha in its prison-fantasy construct.
Director Francisco Barradas and designer Ioana Curelea make use of The Space’s nooks and crannies, especially their balcony, and create a performing area that feels much bigger than it is.
Oubliette is a fantastical fever dream watered by the tears of a clown while exploring the resilience of the human spirit. As the Barking Hearts Twitter profile suggests, they “create theatre that bites at the heartstrings, gnaws at the gut, and is as barking mad as we are.”
I liked the music element and some of the interplay between Barr-Forrest and Wyatt, while recognising this show may have a polarising effect on audiences.
The length is about right – it is a very physical and intensely dialled-up show and after all, less is more – queer, bonkers, disturbing, and revelling in the bizarre, Oubliette is a good example of theatrical exploration from a young company who seem to have a lot to offer.