Prague Fringe 2012
Who or what is Beesquit? After an hour of fast-paced physical theatre, music and dance, this question only becomes more complex. Characters emerge from each other like Russian dolls – an ‘exploding’ opera singer turns into a manic accordionist before our eyes, only to reappear as a frustrated caterpillar. At times it’s difficult to follow what’s unfolding on stage, but whatever it is, it’s great fun and we don’t want it to end.
Beesquit is the latest creation from the great minds at Artimmediate – a Scottish/Italian collaboration founded in 2002 to produce new work, further training and deliver traditions in the performing arts to the widest possible audiences.
The show begins with an enormous opera singer waddling on stage, serenading the audience in baritone snatches of an indeterminate romance language. Interacting cleverly with a backing track that provides a skeptical translation, the opera singer is a classic creation in the Chaplin mode – heroically attempting to get through a song and dance routine beset with comical obstacles.
As the opera singer collapses in a heap of his over-sized clothes, the real hero of the show steps forward – the dashing accordionist, who embarks on a romantic ballad of maddening digressions and false-starts, backed by some bravado musicianship.
Actor Carlo Jacucci performs all the parts himself in an awe-inspiring display of physical comedy and character creation. With a natural comic talent, he plays out his antiheroes with a doomed dignity as they persevere with dances long after the broken backing track has continued to loop, or continue telling stories that the audience can’t hear. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry at times, or just pull our hair out with frustration at these impossible enterprises.
It’s a strange paradox for shows like this, that the jokes often have to drag on too long, since the whole point is that the character is caught in a performance that has gone wrong, they’re trying to get through it without losing face but it continues to spiral out of control.
The performer treads a fine line between keeping their audience on the side of the flailing character, or losing them as the joke wears thin. Beesquit fearlessly pushes this line to the limit without ever losing control, but I would have liked to hear another song on the accordion – we were only treated to two and they were both highlights, one more might have improved the balance of the show by breaking up the character sketches and offering more variety.
Beesquit is physical comedy at its near best, vividly bringing to life a sequence of memorable antiheroes and eccentrics. The ‘story’ itself is designed to be maddening, as the digressions and miscues constantly frustrate any attempt of the audience to make sense of what’s going on – but if you give yourself up to it, there’s great joy in this surreal escapade.