Brothers de­vour a bizarre slice of his­tory for story

The man who ate every­thing | Laura En­field

The Wharf - - What’s On -

Watch a pup­pet swal­low a snake live on stage in The Depraved Ap­petite Of Tar­rare The Freak.

Much more than just a gim­mick, this cham­ber opera is based on the bizarre and true story of an 18th cen­tury French­man who had one of the first recorded cases of polypha­gia.

The med­i­cal dis­or­der left him un­able to feel full and suf­fer­ing from an in­sa­tiable hunger. But it also took him on amaz­ing ad­ven­tures into the world of the French Rev­o­lu­tion as a spy.

His story is be­ing brought to the stage at Wil­ton’s Mu­sic Hall from Jan­uary 30 to Fe­bru­ary 18 by the Poster brothers and Wat­tle And Daub Fig­ure Theatre.

Pup­peteer Tobi Poster dreamt up the ac­tion while clas­si­cal pi­anist Tom has writ­ten the score.

Tobi, 31, said: “I was click­ing through Wikipedia one day and found my­self read­ing about this guy who had a sideshow in Paris swal­low­ing cats and snakes and pocket watches whole and re­gur­gi­tat­ing them.

“He was re­cruited by the French Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Army to smug­gle doc­u­ments in his stom­ach.

“In­stantly I knew I had to put it on stage and as a pup­pet opera – it is such an out­landish story.”

The lit­tle in­for­ma­tion that is known about Tar­rare has been gleaned from the notes of the doc­tor who treated him – and the show opens with his au­topsy.

It goes on to delve into the macabre myths sur­round­ing Tar­rare, who by 17 could eat a quar­ter of his body weight ev­ery day, but was only 7st 2lbs, and who sweated so pro­fusely a vapour could be seen ris­ing from his body af­ter he had eaten.

The show mixes pathos and hu­mour to present him as a mon­ster and vic­tim who was ex­ploited by the mil­i­tary and ex­per­i­mented on by doc­tors.

Tobi said: “His life was lit­er­ally a freak show. He was a man who could swal­low cats but also a hu­man be­ing who had a dif­fi­cult and ul­ti­mately tragic life.” He died aged 26. It is the first time the sib­lings have teamed up for a full scale project and both said it has been a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence merg­ing their cre­ative forces.

South Lon­doner Tom, 35, who ap­peared as a soloist on the film sound­track for The The­ory

Of Every­thing, said: “This is by far the most sub­stan­tial thing we have done. When Tobi first told me about it I thought it was bril­liant and bizarre. And, of course, I won­dered how it was go­ing to work.

“But us­ing pup­pets has been a re­ally re­ward­ing process. It frees up the singers to sing mul­ti­ple roles.

“With pup­pets you can be more ex­treme and eclec­tic. I have ex­plored that through the mu­sic and it led to a score that is re­ally colour­ful.” Jan 30-Feb 18, £10-20, Wil­ton’s Mu­sic Hall, wiltons.org.uk

The Depraved Ap­petite Of Tar­rare The Freak

Tobi Poster with Tar­rare

Tom Poster

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