Review: BLAM! - Peacock Theatre

Performance: 22 October - 16 November 2013
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Friday 25 October 2013


Performance reviewed: 24 October 2013

Post-it notes and staplers will never seem the same again; and as for cardboard magazine files, well who knew that they could be killing machines! Billed as “Die Hard meets the Office” this exciting slice of Danish physical theatre begins with three guys whiling away their boredom in an open plan office as a fourth (their manager) exerts the kind of blunt machismo supervision that comes straight out of the Basil Fawlty Guide to Management, and he has the short-back-and-sides and lip-hugging moustache to go with it.

In a slow-moving opening ten minutes, the boys turn everyday desk accessories into their toys and embark on office games played the world over: as an example, rolled up pieces of paper are bowled across the desks, whacked back by a “bat” – otherwise the aforementioned cardboard magazine file – and caught by the third guy in a roving wastepaper bin. We’ve all done it. The sadistic manager is gradually seduced into being one of the boys and the games accelerate up the gears until the four men are acting out a cornucopia of action film roles, many of which flew right over my head. But even I recognised Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Die Hard (it had to be in there somewhere) and Freddie Krueger (although it could have been Wolverine). Every implement doubled as a weapon of masculine destruction; coffee pots became missile launchers and a shiny metal coat stand was revolved to replicate a rotating machine gun. Occasionally, the violence and the noise was teeth-gratingly too much for my faint heart but it was always tempered by regular injections of considerable humour. There are lots of laugh-out loud moments.

The set, designed by Kristian Knudsen, is progressively destroyed in the course of these increasingly outrageous stunts. In the closing section, it rises through 90° to provide a climbing wall and the structure for a game of bagatelle with humans as the ball. The water cooler becomes a fifth performer, having the stands of angle-poise lamps inserted as legs to become a lifelike Space Invader. When the legs are removed the movie references turn to medical dramas as surgeons attempt to save the watercooler Alien’s life.

The four guys have to race through a marathon of sprints in split-second timing, not just in terms of their own interactions but also in matching the sound effects in the soundscape (designed by Svend Kristensen). They bring a range of elite capability to the work, embracing circus acrobatic and trapeze skills (Lars Gregersen), parkour (Didier Oberle), slapstick physical theatre (the creator, Kristján Ingimarsson) and capoeira (Janus Elsig, who is excellent as the choleric manager), So many implements and pieces of heavy equipment are flying around that it seems impossible that they can catch everything (they do) or escape without injury (I’m betting that there are a few cuts and bruises after every show).

Without giving too much away, Blam! builds to an almighty crescendo over the final minutes, accompanied by the blast of heavy metal, which inevitably gets the audience up onto their feet to finish with a standing ovation. It was well-deserved both for creative invention and the remarkable strength and timing of this outstanding quartet of players.

Continues at Peacock Theatre until 16 November

Graham Watts writes for, Dance Tabs, Dancing Times and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in the UK.

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