Cottilard

Review in Issue 5-4 | Winter 1993

I first saw Cotillard two years ago, when they were, for me, the hit of the Mime Festival.

They epitomise a certain kind of performance, which is built up of little games. Such performances are awfully (in both senses of the word) common (in both senses of the word). They are nearly always superficial, a lot of visual gags being milked one after the other, stitched together with a relatively tenuous storyline.

It is the visual equivalent of the stand-up comic – lots of jokes (the games they play are rarely serious) that have very little connection and don’t lead anywhere.

This is Pogo-Stick Theatre. Jumping up and down on the same spot, with no development of plot or character except along the flimsiest of lines. At the end, you may, or may not have a few laughs. But the experience is not memorable.

It is a formula for which there will always be an audience – though not, I suspect, the same audience.

But Cotillard are the best. Physically highly skilled, with great energy, style and intelligence.

Their set-pieces – there are 15-20 of them – are attacked with wit and imagination, and a lot of them stick in the memory: the get-fit dance, the game with the doors, the dead body, the perspective boardroom table.

The scene was set in the waiting room of a personal manager where four prospective employees for the same Job compete for supremacy. Not an original idea (in the 1991 Mime Festival there were three shows on the same theme), but an excellent vehicle for an enormously talented company.

Companies like Brouhaha and Talking Pictures have a lot to learn from Cotillard if they wish to continue in this undemanding style of theatre.

Presenting Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 5-4
p. 20