Review: ★★★★ Phobiarama, LIFT Festival

Phobiarama is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Dutch theatre maker Dries Verhoeven in collaboration with LiFT festival explores the concept of phobia. This is obviously a very subjective matter, but they managed to make it very fitting to society today and current international topics. It’s a brilliant piece and it will be a more mind-blowing experience if you go without knowing anything about it.

That’s it, stop reading right now.

Ok, if you’re too curious for that, you may continue to read…

The topic of the piece is phenomenal, mainly because it’s so difficult to portray properly and they managed. Expect to be scared, that’s the point. It starts of by being ‘the fun kind of scared’, the reason you go to a haunted house or watch a scary movie. The set up of the piece is even sitting in a bumper car and being driven around in circles whilst observing screens and performers. It then quickly escalates into a more real life kind of fear, fear of terrorism, fear of the unknown, a group of big men coming towards you, taking you away. Subjectively, it might be more terrifying for women as it explores a lot of the fears women face everyday. 

Phobiarama is created with the entire cast as a devised piece – probably why the entire cast are men who have felt on their own body what it’s like to be a subject to ethnic profiling. They are all very muscular dark men, mainly with tattoos, the men that society and the media has taught us to be afraid of. They now spend everyday in this performance subjecting themselves to feeling that way with every audience member looking scared for their life, but as the performance is stripped down it’s showing you that there is nothing to be scared of – obviously. It very cleverly explores the idea of fake news in the sense that you believe what you hear, with no proof of truth, highlighting the media’s influence on why we, as a society, are scared of people because of their looks, race or religion. The content, while excellent, was prolonged in places where being more succinct could have allowed for room for more interesting explorations in the same genre.

Never has a piece of theatre made you feel so uncomfortable. This is not a light hearted night at the theatre. If, however, you believe that theatre should change the way you perceive things, make you feel real emotions and touch on topics that you wouldn’t see elsewhere, go now.

It is worth mentioning that this performance could be triggering for people who have previously experienced certain types of traumatic experience. 

Phobiarama is now sold out at the LIFT Festival, however tickets are available for the run in Milton Keynes, here. 


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