Edinburgh Fringe 2019
The teatime show by mime and clowning comedy duo Zeroko from Tokyo. The heart-warming performance represents the breathing sigh of after-teatime relief.
Zeroko’s Teatime is billed as “heartwarming, enjoyable and relaxing”, and that is exactly what it is. Comedy and clown performance duo Masashi Kadoya and Keisuke Hamaguchi began as street performers and, though there are weclome echos of that in this show, what they have created is more than suited for the stage at Greenside Royal Terrace. They use all of that stage and both breadth and depth gives texture to the performance. This is a peformance that is based around showing, sharing, inviting participation and in surprising and thwarting expectations.
At the heart of this silent (though there are plenty of grumbles, whoops and ahs) production are the simple, often laid-bare dynamics between the two performers and also between performers and audience.
To describe it in too much detail is to insert spoilers into this review. I won’t do that. There are gentle circus feats, set piece knockabout sound and visual comedy scenes, as well as the politics of competitiveness between to friend-companion rivals. It might be Laurel and Hardy in some of the physical duels and there’s something of Vladimir and Estragon (from Samuel Becket’s play Waiting for Godot) in some of the slower paced banter. Pace is mostly the big strength, along side the comedic inventiveness. Yet, like all good clowning, it is the courage to stop, to be silent, to slow to a crawl and find stillness, to just let expectation and wonder fill the empty space that gives power to the fifty minutes.
We are waiting, we are watching, we are enjoying the simplest set-up around the making and drinking tea and wondering with intense interest at what might happen next. The performers develop their physical prowess and they offer us plenty of mock-innocent reaction to what is happening with and to each other. That is another contributing element to the comedy; when things go wrong we are invited to sympathise, to take sides, to root for one, the orher, or both. We suspend disbelief willingly and, but being vital as watchers of the reactions to us on stage, we become collaborators in the comedy, as well as cheekily orchestrated responders.
Occasionally the pace feels a little uneven, but those moments are rare in a show that demonstrates confident strength in the simplest of things. The audience left satisfied, as did this reviewer, impressed as how less can be so much more, and also how the comedy of clowns can explore our sadness without pulling us into despair. We are then left with the ability to smile and laugh at the human condition. Highly recommended.