Prague Fringe 2013
‘Why are you looking at me?’, said the rabbit to the lion. It is a question often posited, but never answered in this thoroughly idiosyncratic one man show from Italian performer Carlo Jacucci. Baitman’s festival programme listing describes the show’s language as ‘English and Gibberish’, but in fact the English is also gibberish. Jacucci flips erratically between segments of speech, gesture and silly facial expressions, constantly trailing off mid-sentence, occasionally returning to an unfinished story, and never arriving anywhere. The whole thing is essentially an hour long non-sequitur.
The opening sees Jacucci walking slowly onto the stage, barefoot, while recorded sound effects give the impression of huge clonking boots. He produces a prop cigar and starts telling a story, but there is an interruption: the sound of sawing wood, which our hero must complement with the appropriate action. This is followed by a hammer, chainsaw and a number of other increasingly unrecognisable devices. But before long, there is no time for this anymore, as we’re now being told a story about taking a bath in the desert and lending soap to an approaching stranger. Of course.
With such a spasmodic structure, it is inevitable that some of the quips fall flat, but Jacucci’s wide-eyed persona somehow manages to maintain the momentum for the entire running time. A particular highlight comes halfway through, when he leaves the stage and re-emerges wearing bright pink leggings and an ill-fitting bob wig. After spending a good while telling members of the audience how beautiful they are, he pulls off the wig and declares ‘it was me!’. The straightforward nature of the joke has an absurdness of its own when juxtoposed with the madness that has come before.
The appeal of Baitman comes from the fact that it necessarily disarm the audience of all expectations and preconceptions, and exists in a place of pure humour. Jacucci is like a theatrical hot air balloon with all its tethers cut. It must take a lot of bravery to go to this place; as Jacucci says at one point (to much guffawing), ‘my job is danger’.