by Told By An Idiot.
Barbican Centre (The Pit) Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 29 December 32013.
Runs 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7511.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 December.
Theatrical ingenuity and fun.
We’ve reached that time of year, with whole streets turned into Tinseltowns, when my reply to the injunction of this piece’s title is ‘Make Me’. And that’s just what Told By An Idiot’s latest does.
It reaches with considerable success towards the aim, expressed in director Paul Hunter’s programme note, of synthesising the company’s usual physical logic, psychological innocence and wonder-edged comedy with material that resonates in a 4 year old. In doing so, the show draws on a heritage of popular culture (the title song included) and comedy gambits, creating a cabaret of simple sophistication. And, at Christmas, it’s framed by the arrival of a baby in a zip-case.
The revealing of stage trickery, sometimes in apparent ineptitude, sometimes with apparent world-weariness, comes early on as inflatable plastic tubing is suddenly substituted by a fully-inflated swimming pool. Too small to jump into, and empty of water, there’s play made with this unreality. Diving’s suggested but doesn’t happen, while anyone stepping into the pool is accompanied – sooner or later – by a splashing sound-effect.
Nothing’s predictable; water is thrown audience-wards but the plate of spaghetti bolognaise that looks to veer our way is revealed as safely stuck to its plate. There’s nothing so safely fake about the tomato sauce a performer splatters across slices of bread by throwing himself onto the sandwich.
Sophie Russell’s violining is clearly fake; but Elisabeth Flett’s rapid bowmanship alongside her isn’t.
And after some deliberate false starts Michael Ureta’s athleticism comes on in leaps and bounds – not to mention spirals and handstands. In a scene young minds will surely recognise, Ureta as a baby bounds freely round the stage while his mother is quite unaware, complaining about her life and thinking he’s safely strapped in the pretentious, double-decker buggy she’s imported from Scandinavia. When she ends her mutters by strapping herself into the thing, it’s clear where imaginative freedom lies between the generations.
Stephen Harper adds some direct comedy with young members of the audience. And it’s entirely right that they finally get to join the dance – and have the final word in this happy show.
Performers: Elisabeth Flett, Stephen Harper, Sophie Russell, Michael Ureta.
Director: Paul Hunter.
Designer: Sophia Clist.
Lighting: Tom Snell.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Assistant director: Roe Lane.