by Siobhân Nicholas.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Emlyn Williams Theatre) CH7 1YA 18-19 May 2011.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 0845 330 3565.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 May at Belgrade Theatre (B2) Coventry.

Roll-up for the greatest little show not quite on earth.
There’s certainly no cheating on skills in Siobhân Nicholas’ loving, laid-back tribute to itinerant show-people past, as Chris Barnes’ Freddie Tourino swallows fire. Nor even when Nicholas as his mind-reading partner breaks-off mid performance. Ah-ha, you think, caught you there – you can’t really do it.

But the performer who lives by surprising, lives by trickery too – the mind ends up read, the play finding its way to weave into itself the cunning of performance

But their act is a thing of the past. Now Freddie labours on alone, his act a debilitated and mechanical off-cut from the glory days of love and adventure. For something happened to fissure the partnership, leaving Freddie a wiser and sadder man.

It explains the restraint to Nicholas’s showgirl Grainne, hired at a fair (where she’s walked for just that purpose). The power is always a little less than might be expected to command an audience’s attention; eventually the reason emerges, a sad counterweight to filling the stage with happy hours.

Even in the Belgrade’s more compact space, the two characters can seem small in front of the high, black-curtained wall before they before they begin inhabiting it with their colourful paraphernalia. And, with a nod to another art-form, the maestro behind the allusive near-miss title is reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy – Mr Fellini, brought from a suitcase then curiously underused.

Perhaps the show tries to cram too much in; or, as it’s said to be constantly evolving, maybe loose ends remain.

But only two are sore nerves. The life-twisting event that’s recalled, along with so much else, could gain from having its significance somehow staged rather than described. And the new sensitivity Freddie’s supposedly found through his memories, might be more appropriately expressed than in a tired old blonde-bimbo, and let’s-make-fun-of-short-people gag. If this is all Freddie’s learned, he hasn’t learned much.

The piece, in John Ramm’s relaxed production, gains considerably from Chris Barnes’ performance. An actor who can make a sharp impact while never seeming strained, he finds both his character’s energy and regret in this loving, if sometimes ramblingly individual piece.

Freddie: Chris Barnes.
Grainne: Siobhân Nicholas.

Director: John Ramm.
Lighting: Sarah Sage.
Sound: Owen Johnston.
Music arranger: Chris Barnes.
Graphics: Ken Hodgson.
Magic/Comic adviser: Arthur Pedlar (Clown Vercoe).
Concert/Variety Artistes Adviser: Jean Tyler.

2011-05-13 09:36:23

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