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Brighton Fringe 2011

Show Off

Artichoke Group

Genre: Physical Theatre


The Old Courtroom


Low Down

A showcase of different kinds of physical theatre, children and adults take to the stage in this visually impressive collage of creative performance from award-winning Artichoke.


You’ll be surprised in a good way at the ease with which these children take to the stage – dance, move, act, mime and mask-perform.

Each irem on this delightful showcase menu is unique, impressively made and performed. For example, The Flowers takes Brighton’s own St Ann’s Well Gardens as its inspiration and a soundscape and movement tableau is created that brings animal, plant and the elements, as well as the presence of humankind evocatively to life – all brought to vivid, humorous and touching life by the young performers. They’ve been awakened to what they can do, and they respond with warm ease. Well observed, joyfully and cleverly created, the children exude an easy confidence. And hey, I’ve BEEN in that cafe, I’ve ordered that food! I KNOW that pooch!

There’s nothing mechanical in the execution of these set pieces. You only have to watch the eyes of these children to know that story is authentically coursing through them. And that’s why the physical theatre works so well in beings do young. 
The children interact as peers in the pieces with the adults. This is a showcase of pieces of work, not of children. The work is most important  because of this priority, a charming, impressive exhibition on the stage emerges nonetheless.
Some of it is breathtaking –  spectacle is achieved and then transcended and then, we forget age most of the time and dive into the work itself. That’s high praise for all concerned, The audience were delighted.
Some of the pieces are a little too wordy and that’s when the to-be-expected shortfalls in vocal delivery show themselves, running behind the consistently high quality physical work. Words sometimes feel a bit unnecessary when the physical theatre is so clearly strong across the board. 
‘Red’ felt a bit out if place, performed as it was by two hugely talented adult physical theatre performers. There was nothing wrong with the piece, though the acoustics of the venue didn’t help clarity with vocals so located in the upper register. But a wholly adult piece was hard to tune suddenly onto in a production so built around children. In a way we are asked to suspend our disbelief quite quickly when faced with children sometimes playing adults, sometimes animals, sometimes children – and we do so, willingly because of their talent and the excellent physical staging. And then we are snapped into suspending our suspension as we watch adults doing a story. It’s all suddenly too normal and, as a result, a bit banal and hard to zone in on. 
Back to the rest of Show Off. There’s an engaging variety of material and the inventiveness, natural ease and ensemble discipline is always of consistent quality. Very unique, very special.
Artichoke have achieved something wonderful  here and only a tad sentimental – both back- and frontstage. It also demonstrates how powerful physical theatre and mask work can be in waking up the latent potential of confidence of young people. Show off they do. And very good they are too.