Peepolykus, Mindbender / Gonzo Moose, When in Rome / Leikin Loppu, Tony & Pat

Review in Issue 15-4 | Winter 2003

Leikin Loppu 'Tony & Pat' Komedia, Brighton, October 2003 Komedia has always been a strong supporter of physical comedy - since opening in 1994 they have played host to all the familiar names: Commotion, Hoipolloi, Foursight, Rejects Revenge, Brouhaha... and of course Peepolykus, who have brought every show from 'Let the Donkey Go onwards to the venue. Last year, Peepolykus toured their version of Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros'. Their latest offering, 'Mindbender', is a return to the familiar territory of the three-man devised theatre clown show, developed with director Darren Tunstall

'Mindbender' takes us into the psychic world of Michael Santos. We start with the to-be-expected spoof on the phenomenon of the TV magcian or psychic, with David Santos (no relation?) in his element as the flashy showman-more Derek Achora than Derren Brown. There's some classic Peepolykus playacting and parody including a send-up of mime school glass walls/imaginary doors with a very clever sound-on/sound-off twist plus the usual clown-play of establishing relationships and hierarchies between the characters, with Javier Marzan in his familiar role as the I'll do anything for-a-laugh sidekick and John Nicholson as the naive stooge who agrees to be the audience plant. The spoof mind-reading scenes take a nod in the direction of Forced Entertainment's 'First Night', although stay within safe boundaries of pastiche rather then deconstruction

The show develops with a Faust lan twist to the proceedings: having suffered heart failure during a masochistic stunt (shades of Houdini and Blaine), Santos does his deal with the spirit world: one night of genuine psychic power and he'll die a happy man. But is it for real? The whole thing hinges around the shift in the second half to real rather than fake magicbut although some of the tricks are convincing, the necessary wow factor is missing, and the ending feels a little lame. There is, however, a scene towards the end which is so perfectly absurd and wondrously funny that it makes the show: John Nicholson's character, relegated from his role as audience stooge, regains the focus of attention by turning up on stage in disguise as a bear. It's a moment of pure comic genius - after that, anything would be an anti-climax.

A rather different style of physical comedy was brought to Komedia by Leikin Loppu whose 'Tony & Pat' is set on an allotment, and apparently inspired by Antony and Cleopatra'. It is a wordless blend of physical clowning, surreal visual tableaux and eccentric dance/mime, that in its precisely choreographed and musically sensitive physical expression reminded me of Nola Rae's work with Sally Owen and at other points reminded me of Bouge-de-la's Under Glass": perhaps this latter connection was down to the shared interest in tortured romantic relationships and the strange sprouting of plastic flowers! As will have been gathered, this is a show that has many familiar elements to veterans of British mime/physical theatre - but in its combination of those elements it is an original, entertaining and often touching exploration of love amongst the leeks and lilies.

Also at Komedia, appearing as part of the Paramount Comedy Festival, came Gonzo Moose with When in Rome'. This is physical comedy with no holds barred, a rollicking romp through ancient Rome that grabs every cliché and myth and halfremembered bit of history and serves it up as a fast-paced comic stew - slaves and gladiators, Caligula and Nero, Caesar and Brutus, vestal vir gins, soothsayers, senators and power-hungry mothers. Directed by Shifting Sands' Gerry Flanagan (whose previous company Commotion were a leading light in British physical theatre), it features one of the rising stars of the form, Paschale Straiton, who's destined, I'm sure, to be one of the great female clowns. Previous work (with Company F/Z and Dark Horse amongst others) has proved her comic ability, but Gonzo Moose is the perfect vehicle for her talent - which relies heavily on bouffon and slapstick combined with sharp verbal repartee and surreal visual gags.

However, this is not a solo show: the other half of the act is Mark Conway, who at first seems to be the Emnie to Paschale's Eric as she steals every line and visual gag from him. But as the comic mayhem progresses, the match evens up and by the end of the show I'm convinced they are a mamage made in heaven. Sit. ting in the front row, I did almost fail over with laughter at more than one point. It's hard to pick a highlight from such a fantastically funny show, but the bizarre cuddly toy puppetry and the one-woman portrayal of the whole Roman senate have to be mentioned. As does the great set design from Strangeling David Bernstein. I espe cially liked the statues with the lovely plaster-of-paris uits and the vestal vir gin's eternal flame of glittery red paper. Viva Roma!

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Issue 15-4
p. 24