Monday, 31 August 2015

The Reviews Hub: 'Extravaganza at Exeter Phoenix' (27 Aug 2015)

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub 

Devised: The Company
Reviewer: Christy Ku

Four men, two unicycles, one unitard. Le Navet Bete and their troupe of modern clowns bring out their craziest show again.

A company in residence at the Phoenix Arts Centre, the stage is their home. They become unruly adolescents whose parents are away for a holiday, opening the house for a madcap party. To warm up the crowd, Hans wanders among the seats and the bar, greeting everyone. He does a fantastic job – with his charisma, the audience connects with him immediately and feels comfortable. This later becomes crucial due to the amount of audience participation in this show – expect to be serenaded at some point.

The cast is naturally funny without trying to force any laughs, and their chemistry (and sparklers) glitters on stage. It’s a physically demanding show with David leading most of the acrobatics and stunts on the unicycle. The characters are constantly throwing, lifting or climbing on top of each other. A highlight includes Hans singing while being tossed on a ladder like a pancake in a frying pan.
The pacing and comic timing of the show are excellent, paired perfectly with the music and lighting. When some parts begin to risk becoming a joke that’s been dragged out for too long, something hysterically funny happens. Surprise follows surprise and it’s impossible to guess what’s next – probably because the cast members aren’t quite sure themselves. There is an air of improvisation to the show which keeps the energy flowing and makes the comedy more natural.
Le Navet Bete are updating the clown, an entertainment art that’s slowly dying out. They include typical circus tropes such as ducking under ladders, the cream pie to the face and the unicycle, but they reinvent them.
Extravaganza is full of physical comedy without relying solely on slapstick. Their choreography produces laughs and amazement, and the ventriloquist scene is a strong moment – Hans simply becomes a puppet. The physical comedy can become a little too crude at times with the pyromaniac Frenchman placing a sparkler in a place where no sparkler should ever go. Furthermore, the “failed starts” of the show go on for slightly too long.
Exciting, exceptional and extremely funny – Extravaganza offers an escape from the mundane. Full of laughter, surprises and live music, this absurd play is a must-see.

4.5 stars

Runs until Thursday 27 Aug 2015

For more information about Le Nave Bete:

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