Barnstaple Theatrefest 2015
A family show made by fringe favourites, Autojeu. Mad versions of Aesop’s fables’ classic moral tales for children. Animals, elements, audience participation and singing.
My first and only previous encounter with Aesop’s Fables was reading them as a class in Year Three at a Roman Catholic Primary School. Which was as exciting as it sounds… Luckily Autojeu’s rendtion was a lot more dynamic than that of my formative years.
The tortoise mingles with the audience in the foyer of the Baptist Hall. He is a loud, obnoxious, very slow moving American in shades and a sun hat. He gives laid-back high-fives and messages of encouragement. (Smashed it! WAAAT!)
The performance begins and the uptight hare is on stage ready to begin but the tortoise hasn’t quite made it there yet. This sets up the tone for their relationship: two contrasting, competing characters who don’t get on. It works. It’s extremely funny to watch the hare get more worked up as the tortoise dismisses his concerns.
Performers Sam Gibbs and Pete Buffery have chosen a shoddy school play aesthetic. As they jump from scene to scene, some of the most ridiculous costume choices I have ever seen, are revealed. Pete as ‘the sun’ in a fiery headdress and fluffy beard is grand in comparison to Sam’s ‘wind’ costume: an asymmetrical grey piece of material, artfully draped over his body and a cardboard hat with a puff of wind drawn on. (One young audience member astutely points out that it looks like a fart.) To say they look daft would be a gross understatement.
The structure is strong. The hare and the tortoise is the red thread which continues thoughout as they switch stories and perform little interludes. This non-linear style keeps things interesting for both children and adults alike. That being said some of the other fables are extremely quick and a bit garbled making them hard to latch on to or understand.
Pete and Sam are captivating. The energy is turbo powered throughout. And it needs to be, to ensure consistent laughs and to do justice to the big, physical characters. They constantly come out of character to correct each other and add real comedy to the performance. One stand out moment was when Sam was unable to remove the backing to his sitck-on moustache and, for a good while, tried and failed to peel it off. He made light of the ‘sticky’ situation by shouting to the stage manager that the performnace was running to schedule and they wouldn’t go over time.
The performance is rounded off with a pleasant ditty played by Pete on a guitar. This show has all the ingredients to bring the house down. There were laughs and interjections from the audience throughout and the atmosphere was playful and improvisatory. With a little more refining (but not too much!) of the pacing and delivery in the shorter fables, this show will continue to delight audiences.