“Physical mask theatre at its finest”
After last year’s sell-out smash Hotel Paradiso, I was excited to see what Familie Floz would come back with in 2016, and for the first 50 minutes at least, Teatro Delusio more than meets expectations. It’s physical mask theatre at its finest, with three actors playing well over 20 individual characters between them, each of whom are clearly defined, consistent and a joy to watch.
The setting is backstage at a theatre, where we see the stage crew attempt to set everything up (without killing themselves or each other in the process), and then assist various members of the orchestra, singers and ballet dancers onto stage, even though they may hate, love or just be plain bored with them.
There are tricks and treats aplenty, from simple slapstick moments of falling through ladders and playing with exploding lights, to sword fights and disappearing through trap doors. Familie Floz’s real strength, though, is their character work and dexterity of changes, from a grumpy stage manager to a diva singer, and my absolute favourite: a blind and deaf violinist who has no clue where he is. The changes are so slick you’d assume there were at least six performers constantly running around, while the physicality required to define each character was so perfect that simple gestures often had the audience howling with laughter.
Yet for all their great character work and ability to build a believable world on stage, I feel that Familie Floz perhaps tried to reach too far with this production, by introducing a few too many characters, and deliver a story that could easily have been at least 10 minutes shorter and not lost any of its power. About three quarters of the way through the performance, when ends could have been tied up and rounded off, still more new things happened, and the performance hit a new level of ridiculousness that I think lost me, and many of my fellow audience members. What began as a perfectly plausible, if a little stylised, day or two in the life of a Stage Manager seemed to turn into a dream sequence with stabbings, stage crew achieving their lifelong dream of filling in for wounded ballet dancers at the last minute and unexplained resurrections that pushed the suspension of disbelief a little too far.
A beautiful piece, but be prepared to get uncomfortable: those seats in the Pleasance Grand don’t give much wiggle room and by the end of this performance you’ll need it.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 5 August)
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