Edinburgh Fringe 2010
These guys are superb. From the off their playful characterizations are infectious, and at first you just enjoy their relationships through brilliant mime. Then they start with the circus skills and you realize you are in for an real treat.
From five thick rectangular blocks shaped in an arrow emerges our first character, shaven headed, cheeky and clownish. Then another appears, nervous looking, and the first starts to look for him round the flats. Then the sound of a chain flushes and a big Frankenstein like giant appears, and starts to go after the other two. It is a simple, slapstick routine that introduces us to the charming and hilarious clowns.
They appear to be in some sort of factory, passing small blocks along a production line, they play off each other, passing them back and around, then the cheeky one goes off and starts to perform tricks with them. So starts a routine of throwing and adding more and more blocks until there is a huge pile of them. Then another character appears, the others are uncertain, but he shows them what he can do. What follows is a series of incredible circus skills coupled with musicianship within a framework of the relationship between the characters. It is simply a delight to watch.
Philippe Van De Weghe as the cheeky one is hilarious to watch and has multiple circus skills, specialising in the three small blocks. Etienne Borel is like a dewy eyed smurf and is amazing with the ball-rolling, and big Benji Bernard and Christian Gmunder share various attributes. The great thing is they all work together effortlessly, passing, handing and exchanging different objects for trickery.
The sound element, however, is a bit odd. Ever so often a booming voice intones soothingly or mildly reprimands the clowns, as a kind of hypnotist. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often and doesn’t overshadow the brilliance of the action – at one time in fact it is used to great effect as an instrument.
The transitions between scenes are slick, whilst two perform double violin playing whilst balancing balls on their heads, the other two prepare the next scene. There are too many memorable moments to mention. The blocks are used to great effect, and my favourite moment was when they all found themselves stuck sitting on top whilst trying to help each other down, all done through balance and timing.
This show that Belgian company Les Argonautes have created is a wonderful example of Total Theatre, and they are indeed up for the award. My vote’s for them.