Reviewer: Julia Beasley
The fabulously floodlit church of St Paul in Portland Square is the perfect venue for this trio of top-drawer alternative theatre performances. Home to renowned circus skills academy Circomedia, it ably hosts the best acts from last year’s BE FESTIVAL, Birmingham’s international festival of performing arts (previously called Birmingham European Festival).
First of the three performances is from France and Portugal. Romain Teule makes a complete tit of himself in a mime about birds, but his hilarious ‘lecture’ in English has a serious point. He explores the difference between spoken and written language, how meaning gets lost in translation. The comic possibilities of misunderstandings are legion. Not only do we not understand what the birds are saying: perhaps the meaning of other people’s speech is as opaque to us as birdsong.
Equally hilarious, the second performance from the UK features the best juggling act you are likely to see for a long time. Circomedia’s home-grown Robin Boon Dale has done his research on the theoretical and philosophical aspects of clowning. But he’s still only a man in his pants with a ping-pong bat strapped to his head or standing in a child’s paddling pool juggling water, the possibilities of which turn out to be very funny.
Laughter turns to tears as the last act from Spain presents a beautifully moving portrayal in puppetry of a lifelong love story. Andre and Dorine from Kulunka Teatro use masks and music to tell the tale of a writer and a musician who in old age cope tenderly with her dementia. The wordless performance is perfectly poignant, sometimes harrowing and utterly absorbing.
For those who like their theatre to be thoughtful and innovative, Best of BE FESTIVAL in Bristol cannot be bettered. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you won’t want your money back.
Reviewed on 16 March 2018 | Image: Contributed