Brighton Fringe 2023
The Heist | Solo Mask Show review
Feel like igniting your inner child? This hour was an hour worth spent, a truly blissful and joyous production that reinforces the power of story-telling and the value of detailed figurative mime – This isn’t an easy art form, and you will be sure not to be disappointed. The production is an hour of physicalised heightened comedy, accompanied by an arrangement of live sounds and instruments performed live by the talented Max Charue. Lee Delong’s work is blissful and incapsulates mime at it’s best with the effortless performance from Ralf Wetzel. This is a story that all of us can relate to, as you see the stages of capitalism unfold subtly before your very eyes, to have you laughing one minute then gently silent the next.
The Heist | Solo Mask Show is an uplifting story that follows the life of ‘Steve’ an unassuming man who cares for the world around him – We see this in his interactions with nature and his ability to enjoy his work as an owner of a local Bistro. As a solo performer, Wetzel sets up the imagined setting beautifully through carefully timed gestures, leading through his body and variation of weight placement to ‘paint’ his world around him. Without any props I was transported into a world of a man who cares for the birds, whilst ‘tending’ to his customers with rigour, pride and a sense of contentment in his own world. This dynamic of immersive, co – development is evident to see as Delong directs this story with beautiful alignment between Charue and Wetzel. Their energy is infectious as we see Charue using twelve instruments, his extensive vocal palette and random objects (my personal favourite was the vacuum pump) to compliment Wetzel’s beautiful rhythms of movement. Wetzel never misses a beat, with delicate placement of his body throughout, concomitantly performing whilst in full mask – Not a fleeting task!
Delong’s creation took a month to devise in rehearsal, this performance being the second draft of her initial idea. I have to say, being a fan of total theatre – I felt privileged to watch Delong’s vision materialised on stage; it’s no surprise she has trained at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where great artists train the fundamentals of physical theatre and mime. What makes this production unique is her collaboration with Wetzel, who made all four masks that you see on stage and who is the sole actor within this one man show. Her thirty seven years of experience is evident in every muscle of this physicalised story with lots of humour to fill your belly.
The difference in energy delivered between the characters is beautiful, as the audience experiences Steve’s spiral of decline, falling behind on his payments, unable to keep his business – Something we all know too well from the pandemic. This is beautifully executed through a once vibrant restaurant, to ‘off’ food; even the door weeps when Steve opens it. The audience must watch on as an anonymous satirical businessman takes over from Steve – completely incompetent but hysterical to watch as Wetzel presents this character as a true villain in quick succession of rapid movements as without hesitation he takes over the Bistro. This energy is a welcomed change of pace in the piece, accompanied by Charue’s mechanical drum beats – mirroring this capitalist world of fast paced action with a complete disregard for the ‘working man.’ This is a complete contrast to wistful melodic rhythms from Charue’s xylophone (Steves associated sound), as Charue begins to use sellotape as a sound effect to ‘cut’ the harmonious vibe.
For me personally, Charue’s rendition of ‘Muddy water’s wash me clean,’ entitled Drowning by Delong, was a pivotal moment of the piece – highlighting that we must take a moment and treat others with kindness. This simplistic moment of physical theatre, supported by Charue’s singing in A capella really explored the depths people will go to if they can no longer see a way out, perhaps this would have been a more poignant place to finish, however in true melodrama – one does like to have a happy ending!
Please go and support such amazing work, I will not spoil you with details surrounding the surprise of our melodramatic policeman, but Delong’s character arch for this jobsworth policeman is a true joy!