Brighton Fringe 2010
Created by Yael Karavan and the Karavan Ensemble , this is site-specific show based at the Coachwerks, we’re promised "a journey through dance, physical theatre, music and installation, a journey which begins on a Big Lemon Bus from the Old Steine and ends with pizza cooked by our very own chef.
Does a Shop of Fools sail within each and every one of us? Do we carry within our souls a host of characters, some of which we never realise exoterically? Whence does the ship sale and are we the captain, a passenger, all the passengers, or all of these ?
The proceedings started before sunset in the heart of Brighton during the rush hour. We are serenaded indifferently and processed administraively on a big Lemon bus from the Old Steine. We arrive at a partially transformed Coachwerks; the usual studio spaces and offices have been transformed into a place where food is prepared, and where a range of characters move and invite us to look at them, listen to them, move up to them, engage with them, even one up on the roof.
Music is created live and plays about the sapce. We move into different rooms at our own leisure, we witness the "boss", a moustachioed maestro host, played with consumate skill and ease by Yael Karavan herself.
The ship’s captain is anxious and energetic and all of the characters are 100% in their respective zones. We are in a kind of dream world, an imagination space, a mood-space, an atmosphere where the fourth wall has fallen and yet is also strangely a kind of ghost haunting the experience.
In these early phases of this site-specfic piece we move around a kind of living gallery, reminiscent of Dreamthinkspeak’s Don’t Look Back which took Edinburgh by storm a few years back.
We explore the space and there’s a sense of permission to look, listen, occasionally touch. There are masked women in evening dresses, a man on a roof reaching for something, a ship’s captain and a sense that this company haven’t quite yet fully claimed the space, but then again, these are fools, as perhaps are we all,
floundering amongst the things of life. Don’t seek a narrative but there’s a warm and almost charming intimacy in this physical collage. A chef arrives, lights the wood fired oven and begins to prepare food.
If you touch A Ship of Fools fleetingly you’ll be in one entrance and out the other side wondering if it were worth braving the Brighton traffic rush hour exodus. If you stop and engage with it, as a whole and in all its parts and vignettes you may not find an easily accessible narrative, but it will start to converge, and a curiosity at a deeper level may awaken.
Then the main white space becomes a more traditional performance space and we are invited to sit and watch. An eldery lady in her silver sequined gladrags, joined by a young
guitarist croons some romantic oldies. "I’m in the Mood for Love". It
goes on for too long. The fools dance in the wings, and meinhost engages in a solitary physical routine.
The fourth wall is tossed about on this sea of invention. And sometimes we’re a little sea sick from it all. Some of the performers are more charismatic than others and this affects the consistency of the piece. It changes from moment to moment and yet a consistency is needed to carry this ambitious production.
I sense it will develop, it will improve, it’s a ship at the beginning of a creative journey. They need to throw some of the less original and already done elements overboard, travel a little lighter as a vessel for art and performance. It’s full of heart, warmth and welcome. It’s as confusing as it is enjoyable, messy as it is ambitious.
In some ways, it’s all here – the never absent accordian, white masks and white sheets and a young woman swooning in a white evening dress (wedding dress?). And yet one of the fools is missing – the fool of rationality and beginning, middle and end. There is an ending as we sit down to enjoy the freshly made pizzas with the cast. No one can escape the fools!
I’d recommend seeing it for the inventiveness, the heartfulness, some beautiful movement and moments, and to see an engaging ship at the beginning of its artistic journey.