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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Fahrenheit Twins

by Tim Newns

We won't grow up, we'll stop time.— The Twins: Tainto'lilith and Marko'cain
The Fahrenheit Twins
Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter
(Photo: Keith Pattison)
Michel Faber's tale of an isolated childhood and the cruel passage of time is adapted for the stage by Told by an Idiot in a mischievous and playful production that is visually stunning. Unfortunately it doesn't quite enthrall you emotionally as much as you would expect with such a heartbreaking story.

Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter, founding members of Told by an Idiot, play the twins Tainto'lilith and Marko'cain, who are born to scientist explorers on a mission in the Arctic. With no other human contact, they spend their days playing in the snow and creating a book of knowledge compiled of their experiences on this desolate land. All seems well until one day their caring mother falls ill and, with a father too preoccupied to care for them, they are forced to grow up fast as time seems to suddenly accelerate at an alarming rate.

Carmichael and Hunter also play the parents, the dogs and the foxes that inhabit this "exploration station" often switching between characters with just the slightest wardrobe alteration. They are both highly skilled in their transformations with Carmichael showing particular adroitness from switching between a young and playful Tainto'lilith to her sick and dying mother.

The most impressive aspect of the production is Naomi Wilkinson's revolving stage covered with a white fluffy material to represent the snowy landscape. Surrounded by darkness and smoke, the set contributes to the harsh isolation and coldness of the piece. A snow covered slope crowns the "disc world" stage that is intelligently used throughout as both the family home and also the many snowy dunes that cover this barren land. The "fluffiness" of the set and costumes combined with Gareth Fry's high-spirited sound design leads the audience into a world of fun and youthfulness, ultimately placing us in a false sense of security as the twins' desperate situation becomes more apparent. Philip Gladwell's lighting design also helps create the polar ambience with an array of icy and stark colours.

Disappointingly, after the initial visual appeal of the first ten minutes the production progresses at a rather slow pace. With the exception of a ritual sacrifice of a fox the story struggles to entice much interest or sympathy until the mother falls ill, a long way into the performance. From this moment on, however, the production comes to life, culminating in various heart-warming situations juxtaposing our emotions constantly.

Faber's tale reminds you of being immortally young and explores the idea of stopping time itself to keep off the inevitable step to adulthood. An interesting and intriguing theme in this snow covered fairy tale at the Barbican Pit that I do recommend for its visual impact, but just be a little patient for its moments of dramatic flair.

The Fahrenheit Twins
Written by Michel Faber
Adapted by Told by an Idiot and Matthew Dunster
Directed by Matthew Dunster

Starring: Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter
Design: Naomi Wilkinson
Lighting: Philip Gladwell
Sound: Gareth Fry
Running time: One hour 30 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7638 8891
Booking to 5th December 2009
Produced by Sebastian Warrack
Co-produced with Drum Theatre Plymouth
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 19th November 2009 performance at Barbican Pit, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

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