Kabinet K's feral vision of a family unit on the fringes of society
There's a feral defiance to Kabinet K's Raw, a piece that combines dance, movement and theatre to explore the relationships of a pack of children living on society's fringes. Sometimes left to their own games, sometimes with two adult guardians – who may or may not be related to them, or each other – the six girls and one boy shift through ostracising, clinging, hurling themselves around and caring for each other on a stage that hints at industrial wastelands. All is done under the watchful gaze of musician Thomas Devos, an outsider who can see and be seen and whose presence has the feel of a storyteller.
We know nothing about this group – not their names, how they formed, or initially, how they relate to one another. Like building a family from scratch, roles only exist through the language used to create them. It's a visual, physical language of dysfunctional embraces, discomfiting yanks, comforting crab leaps into one another's arms, and yearning, jelly-kneed solo dances of the soul.
The children were largely untrained in dance when picked three years ago for the piece, and it shows in the rough quality and intrigue of realism in their movement. In one section, a teenage girl copies the moves of the group's father figure (co-choreographer Kwint Manshoven), learning not only his swooping gestures but the emotions inside them. Another – one of the youngest – evolves backwards from a cartwheeling girl in a party dress, to a raggedy kid running about in just her underwear.
What is most refreshing about Raw is to see children on stage and in the audience confronted with unsettling issues and fragmented narratives. Gritty in its vision, here's a children's show prepared to declare that environmental decay and fractured dysfunctional relationships are not things for grown-ups alone to consider. Though the piece sometimes seems to ramble, like it's going in loops rather than forwards, there is always an inspiring toughness to the young survivors. The world of this scruffy cult, though bleak, looks to be in good hands.
EICC, run ended.