The Fahrenheit Twins

Reporter: Charlotte Marshall, first published Fri 20 Nov 2009 12:00

If the early arrival of Christmas adverts, mince pies and idealistic portrayals of wintery wonderlands have left you feeling uninspired by the mottled grey English skies, take the lift two floors down at the Barbican and you will find yourself in the white, ice-cold snowy landscape of Told By An Idiot’s The Fahrenheit Twins.

A revolving white fur stage, complete with slide and various props all fringed with snow white fluff provides the set for Told By An Idiot’s Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter, who become almost camouflaged in their white fur suits. Playing a selection of roles between them, from the twins Tainto’lilith and Marko’cain, to their parents and the stalking snow foxes beyond their cosy fur home, they retell Michel Faber’s dark fairy tale.

Born on a remote Arctic exploration station to scientist parents, the twins grow up in a world away from trees, grass, four seasons and even other humans, existing instead in an icy world where they slide in the snow and learn everything they can from The Book Of Knowledge. When their mother unexpectedly dies, their father sends them on a journey to decide how they wish to lay her to body to rest. But in a Hansel And Gretel twist, the food supplies he so lovingly appeared to pack are empty and the fuel to keep them warm is useless cooking oil.

Changing between characters by turning down flaps on their suits to reveal Bavarian costume or with the use of a wig, scarf or furry mask, Carmichael and Hunter successfully achieve complete transformations with these simple touches, whether it be from the curious and worried Tainto’lilith, desperate not to grow up and become different from her brother, to her romantic, wise mother, or from Marko’Cain’s matter of fact boyish persona to their increasingly detached, sinister and selfish father.

Faber’s story is both magical and dark, charting the twin’s youth through childish experiments, some of which are sweet, such as trying to grow a tree in the snow, others darker, exploring pacts they can make with the universe including blinding a fox to prevent themselves from becoming older. This imaginative and otherworldly tale is enhanced by Told By An Idiot’s innovative approach to theatre making, sprinkling the story with their unique touches, using mime, physical comedy and surreal moments to add further humour and magic to the piece.

Ultimately a tale of loss of innocence, Told By An Idiot’s production portrays the fact that both comedy and tragedy can occur as a result. With a 19:45 start, a David Bowie and ELO soundtrack, and clever word-play from the innocently precocious twins, this is definitely a show for those who have already experienced the perils of growing up and facing the big bad wolf.