Fahrenheit Twins at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth. Review by Heather Smith

The Fahrenheit Twins, a production based on a short story by Michel Faber, adapted by respected theatre company Told by an Idiot and director Matthew Dunster, had its premiere at the Drum Theatre Plymouth, and runs until Saturday, October 10.

The play tells the story of Tainto’lilith and Marko’cain Fahrenheit, who are born into the wilds of an Arctic Island. Isolated from the outside world and ignored by their anthropologist parents, who have come to observe a local tribe, the twins are free to develop without the societal and parental constraints of ‘regular’ children. The production explores the influence of nature and nurture in creating who we are through the story of the twins’ efforts to make sense of their world and their place within it.

A co-production between Told by an Idiot and the Drum, there is plenty of evidence of “theatre about as inventive, imaginative, and fantastical as it gets” promised on the Told by an Idiot website. The fur-covered, cleverly transforming rotating set shimmers as if coated with snow under the stage lights. Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter, who play all the roles, demonstrate physical theatre at its best with energetic performances and fantastic timing. Ingeniously designed costumes aid their transformation into various characters.

Telling a story targeted at adult audiences through children is all about getting the right mix of light and dark – grittier scenes providing thought-provoking contrast to the humour and innocence of childhood. It’s a difficult line to tread. Some of this shade is evident in the twin’s violent reaction to their mother’s revelation about the physical changes involved in growing-up and their response to the problem of disposing of a dead body. But too many times I had to remind myself of the recommended minimum age (12+), for this production. Scenes involving Hunter and Carmichael playing husky dogs, an overlong sledging set piece and a farcically-played ending tipped the balance into pantomime.

Irrelevant incidental music also added little to the production (why Bowie’s Young Americans?). Worse still, it was played so loudly it forced several members of the audience to move – a shame as other sounds effects were excellent.

The story of The Fahrenheit Twins has the potential to be as fascinating as the ways of the Gui Inuit tribe were to Mr and Mrs Fahrenheit. More focus on the intended audience and ruthless cutting of superfluous scenes might just restore the balance.

Seen the show? What’s your view? Leave your comments below, please.

Heather Smith

After years in denial, Heather Smith has finally conceded that she is a writer, willing to exchange the products of many hours of blood, sweat and crossing-out for the chance of being published.In addition to PRSD and Art+Culture she has written for Art Cornwall, iwalkdevon and Behind the Spin. She also blogged about her life as a mature student on Later Study. In her spare time she enjoys watching her bantams think up new ways of destroying her veg patch, camera-less photography and making jewellery with found objects. Her ambition is to become a mad old woman and own an alpaca called Gerald.