THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak ★★★★

The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak
Wattle and Daub Theatre Company
Streamed Performance from Wattle and Daub's Website

Born into Rural France during 1772, and having spent his whole life as part of a freak show along with prostitutes and thieves, Tarrare ‘The Freak’ was a man who had an appetite like no other, constantly eating more than anyone could ever record, with a statement saying that he once ate a meal intended for fifteen people in one sitting. Wattle and Daub Theatre Company, inspired by this tale, have turned it on it’s head to create a macabre Chamber Opera from Tom Poster and Tobi Poster-Su, and follows Tarrare’s journey in becoming a spy for The French Revolution, with the use of puppetry from Wattle and Daub, with Emma Powell brought in to continue the vision.

Taking their positions and preparing the operating table at the top of the show, already the production feels like a polished piece, with clear direction from the company who all appear wearing brown aprons along with Newsboy Caps. As a collective, they embody the characters through puppetry in way that is mesmerising and brings Powell’s creations to life; some particular highlights were the two-headed duo who bicker and symbolise themselves as a guiding light or parental figures for Tarrare, the three tiny men who bring humour as they sway along to the beat of the score at the top of act two whilst order an execution, and finally the baby infant, who will in no doubt find a way to your heart as they waddle on in there entrance. Tarrare however is the star of the show here, and the way that Powell has carved an uncertain, if not terrified and worried expression on our protagonist, is a very neat touch, and makes us have sympathy for a man whose journey we travel with along the way.

With a stimulus that could easily slip alongside any Kneehigh production, and felt reminiscent of The Tin Drum and Dead Dog in a Suitcase at key moments, Hattie Naylor’s story keeps the pace constantly bolted to the beats it needs to strive towards, without veering off path. Sita Calvert-Ennals’ direction should in addition be praised in using the ensemble to project the voices of their characters through Poster and Poster-Su’s lyrics whilst taking centre stage. Sita’s use of imagery makes for a powerful attribute also, with rare moments of bright colours standing strong and cementing a powerful mark on a rather gloomy and grey atmosphere developed throughout; When the master of the freak show bounced around the stage for his entrance in a red long coat, the score changed to a more cheerful number as he welcomed his audience along to his circus, a stark contrast to all the pieces beforehand.

The use of emotion within also allows us to care for the relationships that Tarrare forms along the way; a moment with the baby infant near the climax of the show, as Tarrare plays what felt familiar to a game of peek-a-boo, is rather heartwarming and carries on the thread that despite his upbringing, all Tarrare has ever wanted is to be normal, or full enough in his stomach so he could stop being mistreated. Of course though this moment of calmness is ripped away within seconds, as what he believes a handing over ceremony of a sentimental item to be a thoughtful gesture, soon turns deadly and we are brought back to the macabre gloom.

Overall, The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak is a marvel and transfixing production, due to Wattle and Emma Powell’s stylised puppetry designs, Poster & Poster-Su’s arousing numbers that drive the story forwards, and an ensemble who collectively bring to life around 20 creations artfully, constantly conveying a story of love, grief, and gifting us with a poignant message in wanting to be accepted for who were are and what we want to strive to become.

You can Stream The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak by Clicking Here.

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