Brighton Fringe 2016
Extravaganza performed by Le Navet Bete are a collaborative group of highly skilled clowns who in this particular show battle the space to tell their individual stories and desires to gain the attention and love of the audience whilst attempting to squash their counterparts through slapstick routines. Leading us into the experience is Hans (Nick’s German Clown) who wants to enthuse us on his native homeland and what it has to offer. Right from the onset there is an immediate connection with the audience as they weave a concoction of improvisation and tightly mastered clowning feats that leave you wanting to beg for more.
Extravaganza is performed by four friends originally set out to create crazy, exciting and surreal shows. They started the company in 2007 after graduating from the Theatre and Performance course at Plymouth University. Through sweat, poverty and sheer determination they have stuck with their dream to develop exciting theatrical experiences incorporating clowning, live music, physical theatre and circus and can boast a healthy repertoire of shows. The company have clearly built up their reputation through sheer hard graft with their belief system rooted in their passion for ‘immediate theatre.’
After completing their degree they began to physically train themselves in clowning, acrobatics and circus skills with a focus on non language ‘gesture based theatre.’ Influenced by companies such as Odin Teatret, Gardzienice and DV8 because of their use image, gesture, song and the impressive physical movement together with succinct timing and rhythm that captivated the imagination. La Navet Bete intentions were to then mix comedy and the stupidity of the clown.
Funded by the Arts Council England, internationally renowned touring theatre company, La Navet Bete, have drawn on the work of Jaques lecoq, John Wright and companies such as Spymonkey to help them to understand the theory and practice behind clowning and have built up a wealth of material to draw on by extensively performing to communities where there has been a language barrier.
There is a method to this madness. This is devised theatre at is best and this particular show has been developed from their university days. They start with an idea and then begin to form a narrative often around 30 points for an hour show. They find a score; fast opening, text high energy, slower movement, song, fast bit, flashback, slower poignant bit, chaos, song, fast bit, sad bit and high energy finish. They will rehearse the material and identify a loose script always allowing for flexibility.
This is a company that is refreshing and takes risks at every moment of the show. There were at times some need for more of a binding story, however, in their education pack they state that “The clown lives constantly on the edge of failure and it is in this place where the clown and the audience have their true connection.” This pretty much sums up the experience and the impromptu moments that lead away from the plot (the best comedians go off script and forget the punch line). The company are constantly tittering on the edge of success in between the well rehearsed sequences such as the ‘Superman acrobat’, ‘the kiss of life’, ‘the casualty poi’ (a particular hilarious moment with Alex), ‘the uni cycle’ and ‘the ladder’ to an item taken from the crowd that proceeded to have a particular impromptu effect on the pants of the dear Matt. Each actor and his clown brought a different and equally effective absurdness to the show.
A true comedy experience when you find yourself still laughing and the scene has moved on. There is an intimacy in which you have felt part of the show and have got to know the lovable rogues. The children in the audience were a delight to watch as they rolled around their seats and hid their giggles and faces during Matt’s wiggly moments (!). The adults were just as amused!