Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Winners of the Cirque du Soleil Prize. Bronze Award in Moscow and China! Two contemporary clowns take to the stage to play out the game of desire and being two in a timeless performance of enthralling physicality and exquisite expression. Poetic, surreal, funny, and infinitely enjoyable. These characters transport us in a timeless performance with all the seriousness, the innocence and the unkindness of life. Perfect in their silence and in their acrobatic skills, dreamers like in those of the clumsy comedies, they have travelled the world with their charming story where everything is allowed.
The Baccalà Clown are the duo Simone Fassari and Camilla Pessi. The stage is bare and the lights gently come up. What unfolds over the next hour is an intricate, textured clown piece that ranges from powerful comedic minimalism to elaborate aerial theatre and circus.
I can’t give away any more. Members of the audience gasped, not at the usual circus tricks, not at feats of juggling or acrobatics, but instead at silent looks, gentle, simple gestures, and often found themselves clapping in delight or appreciation at the drama and power in the space in-between – the interplay of he and she.
So, he: Simone Fassari draws on Chaplin, but also on the clown of tears of older times. He is also his own man – able to seek pathos also be a teasingly enjoyable foil for the relationship dynamics with she; childlike, falteringly assertive, the flawed leader, he surrenders as much as he leads.
So, she: Camilla Pessi is a rebel, a seeker, needy yet able to hold her own. Her stillness is astonishing, her eyes pop with curiousity and shock at the world, yet can equally warm and twinkle.
So, they: an alchemy of mutual need and all too human friction, of dependency and separation, of synergy and tragicomic clumsy connection.
Two performers; a relationship, a narrative that is confusing in places, but for good, designed reasons. Human relationships are a mystery we look to clarify, we send accusation of betrayal with our eyes, or the way we turn our backs. It is all here, so wonderfully done. This is (and here I unashamedly and literally use the old phrase) poetry in motion.
It’s fun, often beautifully heartbreaking as all clown should be. Slowness abounds, almost musical, before erupting into reaction and provocation. We see the unfolding dynamics between our two Chaplinesque protagonists. There’s a courage here to allow the moment to stretch and to last as long as it needs to. Laughter in the audience bubbles often out of these silences.- silences that speak of hope, disappointment, expectation, longing and a bit of mischief.
The bare stage becomes filled with our two characters; man and woman, partners in crime, all conflict, clutching and exploration. Sometimes they become a four-legged beast; at other times we have separate performances, woven, meanderingly together through acrobatics, a bit of dance, much sharing and withholding in a kind of political dance.
I enjoyed the tension created by polarity, and found myself sitting forwards when the emotional content of the piece developed in micro-stories within the overall performance. It became fascinating.
Earlier I mentioned "texture". There’s such a commitment to subtlety here; the movement is so often deft, the facial and eye theatre integrated with bodily movement and gesture, that what we have here is fully integrated performance. At one level it is light, gentle, fun. At other levels we have archetypes at work, that underpin the human condition – longing for connection, status, curiosity and hurt. Even deeper we have the journey, especially those journeys we take when we have little or nothing, when just an apple becomes a universe of possibility.
Two very fine performers have brought clown to Zoo Southside and though some of the aerial work was a little rough and tentative, the piece as a whole is one of the best clown pieces I’ve ever seen at the Fringe.
Poised, and more able to bring clown right into just the eyes and the turn of the head, than I have ever witnessed, this is a master-class in a form that often strays too far into literalism and "tricks". Any tricks in Pss Pss did not take centre stage – the more subtle comedy interplay was always at the centre, with the circus elements serving that energetic effect. That’s unique. That’s outstanding.