Tuesday, 3 April 2018

REVIEW: The 4 Clowns of the Apocalypse at Canada Water Culture Space

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have arrived on earth and look very different from how we imagined them. Announced by a clap of thunder, they appear on stage wearing colourful capes and clutching their essential tools. Conquest is holding a bow, War brandishes a sword, Famine swings a weighting scale, but Death is nowhere to be found, although his scythe is laying on the floor.

Without uttering a word, the three mates start enjoying themselves freely, playing dangerous games whose fatal injuries turn out to be reversible, thanks to the absence of Death.

The desolate landscape is somewhere in between an abandoned seaside resort and the Far West. A beach hut with red and white curtains is flanked by an assortment of old fashioned camping gear and other furnishings. A pan is mounted on a tripod to stand over an unlit pile of twigs, besides stands metal bucket full of bottle caps, a milk churn, a watering can and a chair sawn in two halves. Sand covers the floor, and a dead tree stump is upstanding in the corner, offering support to a couple of deckchairs, a bird cage and a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. Empty wine bottles, crushed drink cans and a beach ball are scattered around, as well as a Nokia 3310 kept together with electrical tape. Tarnished cutlery, a piece of rope and a snake-charmer basket complete the picture.

Relying on physical work, mime and clown-esque vignettes, the performance involves a great deal of audience participation that was generally well-received, despite the awkward nature of the tasks required. Climbing on a ladder to catch an imaginary bird, providing coins and pulling off shoes are but a few of the assignments spectators should be prepared to get involved in.

All these efforts are definitely worth it, as the 80-minute long show takes the shape of a community get-together, where people of different ages and cultures are partially responsible of each other's enjoyment. This concept is finalised during the slowly built finale, which, in visual terms, is one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever seen in a fringe production. 

Born from a collaboration between Absolute Theatre and the Portuguese Teatro do Montemuro, The 4 Clowns of the Apocalypse is the epitome of theatre without borders and, with its positive and cheerful simplicity, it deserves to tour the world. However, a more explanatory programme, with regards to the plot and allegoric references, may contribute to a much more informed enjoyment.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: unreserved | Price of ticket: £12
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