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Brighton Fringe 2013

How a Man Crumbled

Clout Theatre

Genre: Drama

Venue: Nightingale Theatre


Low Down

How A Man Crumbled is a piece of deft and deliriously absurd physical theatre inspired by Russian absurdist poet, eccentric and iconoclast Daniil Kharms. Three characters compete to tell his story.  


Although I have been aware of Lecoq trained Clout and have heard great things, this is the first time I have seen them in action.
How a Man Crumbled comes across as some kind of hybrid child of silent movies, kafka-esque atmospheres, constructivist aesthetic and bouffant physicality. It is a delight to experience.
Kharms was a self-named, false moustache wearing rebel, who dressed as an English Dandy and famously smoked a pipe, hated children, loved many women and eventually, like so many other brilliant Russians, met his death under Stalins boot. This is a quote form Wikipedia about Kharms work and writing style:
‘Kharms’ world is unpredictable and disordered; characters repeat the same actions many times in succession or otherwise behave irrationally; linear stories start to develop but are interrupted in midstream by inexplicable catastrophes that send them in completely different directions.’
This sums up the feel of the show pretty neatly.
Lo-fi staging ideas such as actor held lighting and hand made, black and white lettering in the jumpy projections, contribute to a carefully crafted feeling of ramshackle chaos. The incredible complicity of the three actors, (Jennifer Swingler, Mine Çerçi and George Ramsay), give you the feeling there are many more people in the space than just three; people appear where you dont expect them and disappear when you think it must be impossible. This is a real testiment to the deftness of direction and skill of the performers and their knowledge of how to point us at the thing they want us to be watching at any one time. What feels like alchemy, or close up magic – but with bodies, is infact just brilliant craft.
People treat each other abysmally. The writer sticks his thumb in a womans vagina. An old lady dies and is put in a suitase, but iritatingly, her body parts keep popping out, or worse, she keeps rising from the dead. The writer cant stop thinking about his cock and one gets the feeling, is never at ease in his own skin. Always the feeling that life is elsewhere.
How a Man Crumbled is a portrait of the inside of a mans ribald, anxious and chaotic imagination. It is a beautiful piece of work. Funny, gently shocking and charming, a bit like, one imagines, Kharms might have been himself.