Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Circus Klezmer, Purcell Room

Review: Circus Klezmer, Purcell Room

Published on Culture Wars, 23.01.2009

It begins in the queue. Adrian Schvarzstein’s Village Idiot has dived into the ladies toilets and is now pulling women out one by one to find an audience member’s wife. Over the next ten minutes, the clown manhandles his audience like a safari-park chimpanzee disassembling a passing car. Hilarious from afar, but not as enjoyable up close, personal and so in your face it’s almost down your trousers.

In allowing Schvarzstein’s free play its own space and time to begin the show, it takes a while for Circus Klezmer to settle down into itself. When it does, however, it erupts into joy: the auditorium is in total rapture.

As a traditional Jewish wedding encroaches on the daily life of an unspecified Eastern European village, a string of mishaps occur. Rings are misplaced and domestic arguments explode, invitations are scattered and bride and groom seem to keep missing one another. The emphasis is not on narrative, rather on set routines threaded together by a single context.

As a result, the individual acts themselves become more expressive than impressive. Joan Català’s perilously supporting his wife is less a demonstration of muscle than of marital strength. As the bride, Teresa San Juan González winds herself in white sheets suggesting a girlish longing and innocent trepidation about forthcoming consummation.

Best of all is the glorious striptease of the Jewish mother, played to sheer perfection by Cristina Solé. From its humble, slumped-shoulders beginnings – peeling potatoes next to a bucket – Solé builds a masterful comic routine. Swinging herself around a wooden chair and swirling potato-peel into the audience, her body seems to move of its own exhibitionist accord. At times, her face contorts into warped, sneering come-hither looks; at others, she resembles a 13 year-old Mr Bean kicked in the balls.

However, it is in the combination of ramshackle cardboard set, inauspicious and piecemeal, with the triumphant bounce of the music that Circus Klezmer really lifts off. It is a celebration of people, of individual skills, of moments and of love over the material and meaningless. In the room, all is community and community is everything. We become unwitting collaborators, clowns and musicians, drawn together in a frenzy of Catalunian fiestas and Eastern European festivities.

The wedding may be pretend, but the atmosphere is not. Together we share something truly real, exchanging looks and laughter with strangers. Circus Klezmer is generosity over arrogant spectacle, showing that it’s not the height from which you might fall but the spirit with which you play.

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