UMO Ensemble, Eldorado

Review in Issue 12-3 | Autumn 2000

Hunch-backed and pot-bellied, with pointy feet, lumpy knees and horns protruding from their heads, the five fantastically grotesque buffoons in this show by UMO Ensemble recount the Spanish Conquistadors futile search of the New World, for the mythical golden city of El Dorado. This piece of Buffoon Theatre – created in the style originated by Jacques Lecoq – uses the exaggerated, insane and otherworldly buffoon characters to mock the folly and greed of the Spanish colonialists’ sixteenth century search for power and wealth in America.

Taking its inspiration from the role of the mediaeval court jester, and finding its antecedents in the fools of Shakespearean comedy, the buffoon functions as a mischievous, disaffected outsider, who hovers on the fringes of society, drawing attention to the worst excesses of human behaviour by lampooning them. Typically bawdy, foul-mouthed, obsessed with bodily functions and generally badly behaved, the buffoon’s function is satirical. This spirited ensemble from west coast America inhabit their buffoon creations with complete conviction – gurning, farting and goading their way through this loose (un)historical re-enactment of a period of American history that’s best left forgotten. Best of all is Bradley McDevitt, who provides a mean on-stage percussive score on a collection of indigenous instruments – chimes, drums and glockenspiel.

There’s a lovely quality of play here and a tangible relationship built-up between audience and performer. However, unadulterated buffoonery of this sort can tend to wear thin after a while and, unless you happen to like your theatre ham-fisted and unsophisticated, this show might not be the one for you.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2000

This article in the magazine

Issue 12-3
p. 23