Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"A Story of a Man and His Shadow is a dream, a nightmare … maybe a game. A black and white cartoon, a silent movie with two real actors. A man and his faithful balloon and a mischievous figure dressed in black, fighting in a white square, an imaginary room made of invisible bricks. A silent show with a live music soundtrack. Winner the Eolo Award as Best Kids Show in 2010"
The yurt is a wonderfully intimate space, a place for telling precious stories, circular, drawing us from outwards into focus on an emerging bit of theatrical magic. This particular show makes use of just about every inch of this space. It is a physical show, very much in the style of a live silent movie, packed with clowning, double takes, fall over and get up moments, chase scenes, tenderness and warmth among plenty of dark comedy set pieces.
The physical performance is precise, placement mostly pitch perfect with the live sound effects and musical backdrop which is atmospheric, dreamy in places and reminded me of William Ackerman. The use of a live music sound score – for mood, sound effects, and to paid the narrative flow, is among the finest I have seen at this year’s Fringe.
Silent movie chase scenes, knockabout physical comedy, some of the set pieces reminded me of the original Pink Panther cartoons. Plenty of comedy arises from the simple opposition set up between two characters – light and shadow. It’s all whacky, wonderful, and the children often exploding with laughter and delight. They manage the tempo of the set pieces with well chosen timing. They vary the mood and we quickly move from calm to chaos in an instant. The unpredictability of some moments is complemented by other "he’s behind you!" pantomime, and the two performers are excellent comedy foils for each other who can move from a whack to a hug in a second.
Our bespectacled character loves his home comforts and his light. Yet we all need our shadow. And without our shadow what do we become? And without us, what is our shadow ? Light and dark – we need both to be whole. Through cleverly conceived, musical physical comedy, the children were spellbound throughout. The show is packed with creatively designed and realised set pieces, many drawing unashamedly from the world of the clown, but with plenty of engaging theare woven in as well – the joy of going to sleep, the horror of realising someone is at the door, the finding that something we have grown used to has changed…
Timed and paced perfetly in every other way, the piece felt a little overlong overall and some set pieces were not quite as tight as others and lacked the clarity of the best parts. A bit of dramaturgy work would effectively take ten minutes from the overall length and only enhance the show. That said, even these less tight parts of the show were still at the top end of high quality physical clowning and knockabout.
I loved this show – it pulled me in, and I smiled, laughed and watched, enchanted at the skills of the performers and the brilliant set pieces that resulted in an hour of dark, engaging physical comedy. I also laughed a lot. A real gem at Summerhall.