Edinburgh Fringe 2019
One man, one bottle of wine, a table, a chair and a letter to be written. The problem is the pen; it has no ink. Paulo Nani takes us through this simple process several times including as a drunk, as if in a dream, a silent movie, a horror movie, or with surprise, vulgarity and many other styles which allow him to repeat the simple truth that what is funny, IS funny.
Nani has a letter he needs to write. To do so he has a routine to go through. It is funny the first time he does it and the repetition of it in a different number of styles takes funny and makes it hilarious. From the beginning when he talks in Italian, German, Spanish and then pure radgie we know he is the real deal. That nod to his venue and the Scots in the audience tells us that he has a universal show that has local relevance.
Once he has established the various set pieces and how they should be performed, returning to them with a style to illuminate them further is the sheer genius here. We know what ought to happen – even if it does not work – and enjoy seeing it fall apart in a different way each time. We never tie of it in fact could have sat for longer to see more.
It’s clowning at its best as Nani has clearly done this so often that he not only knows it well, but he knows how to work his audience. I didn’t just laugh, I guffawed throughout.
The physicality of his performance – the braces, the chair, the spitting and the pen being without ink – is clearly rehearsed to the point of it being second nature. It sparkles with wit and he loves his job.
The ability to clown and understand the pathos of the piece is never more obvious than when he was interacting with the audience and getting them to be part of the piece; it was brutally tender. He was a master of his arena and we are the marionettes in attendance.
His timing, his visual acuity, his ability to give us what we wanted was just sublime. The repetition is part of the charm. If you think he cannot mine any more comedy from the simple, you are wrong, he can and he does.
The direction for a piece of theatre that has worked so well for so long is exactly as it needs to be. At times there appears to be a laziness in the performance which makes you wonder about the energy levels and then on he comes again and raises it once more.
The lights and the theatrical effects are all spot on. The fact is that anyone who can make an audience applaud simply by raising his finger, is not just in command but we are in thrall at the show.