Sometimes a show is such a total delight that it is hard to write about it without just gushing ‘See it, see it!’ – Pss Pss is such a show. See it, see it. Winner of a Cirque du Soleil prize, and playing the Edinburgh Fringe after successful appearances worldwide, including at the London International Mime Festival, it comes with great expectations. Fulfilled – I was entranced from beginning to end by these two gorgeous clowns, who here demonstrate circus skills galore and comic timing to die for. Poetry in motion.
They start very slowly. A lunch box, an apple, an envious glance, a raised eyebrow, silence. She juggles with her one apple. The audience applaud loudly – it’s just a few minutes in but she’s already won our hearts, looking at us quizzically with her big eyes from below her little grey skull cap, bunches of unruly brown hair escaping from the sides. He looks at her with a pitying, mocking look and places his apple on his head. She splits it in one killer blow.
Throughout, they play the status game – with twists. He appears to get the upper hand a lot of the time, then she trumps him. They hug, he tries to disengage himself, she resists and clings to him like a baby monkey, this turns into a beautiful and fluid acrobalance sequence – piggy-backs to shoulder stands with scarcely a pulse between; dead man drops that end an inch from the ground and immediately melt into something new. Their softness and agility is amazing.
The circus skills are worked into the clown relationship effortlessly. The diabolo section is a classic demonstration of merging circus skills with clowning – he spins the diabolo, there are drops. She does a dippy dance to cover the drops.
There are some great moments of audience interaction, for example, an ultra-silly scene bringing a stepladder onstage over the heads of the crowd. The grand finale is a trapeze act, featuring broken ladders, tangled limbs, and a fantastic frog-hang. I don’t know if such a thing exists in aerial circus, but there is no other word for it that I can think of to describe this fantastic image of our green-legged clown dangling from on high, abandoned by her partner. She does get down – with a little help from a friend. I won’t say how…
The performance by both clowns is world class. The costumes are just right, a mix of classic and contemporary clown imagery (he’s in a brown pin-striped suit and a trilby; she’s in red pixie boots that match her velvet bloomers). The use of music is beautifully considered, with silence playing an important part. I love the way a whimsical waltz or fairground oom-pa-pa polka suddenly stops as the performers freeze to stare each other out; or the way Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is played live by blowing through ladder rungs, to be picked up in the soundscape. In another section, the talented twosome have a battle of musical instruments, she on accordion, he on trumpet (louder, brasher – of course). She takes lots of solos; he retaliates with pure volume. The battle ends in the longest stage hug in history.
These two are such delightful company that inevitably they bring the (full) house down and receive a noisy standing ovation from a delighted, mostly young, crowd at Zoo Southside. So good to see such timeless and beautiful clown work receiving this sort of response. See it, see it. No really, see it.
Pss Pss is shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award for Physical and Visual Performance at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014.