Tuesday, 27 November 2001
Marcel Marceau , Nov 28 to Dec 5, 2001
produced by Andrew McKinnon Presentations
at Playhouse Victorian Arts Centre, Nov 27 until December 5, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
There was a mood of anticipation before the curtain rose on Marcel Marceau. We were in the presence of a theatrical legend. We hoped his 78 years had not lessened his genius.
The master did not disappoint. He is impish, impertinent, skilful and relaxed. His performance demands the avid attention and complicity of his audience and is challenging and rewarding.
As is to be expected with age, Marceau has a little less physical control and strength now. However, he is still a master of mimetic illusion. He creates objects out of thin air, vivid locations in an empty space, and peoples the stage with countless quirky characters.
He creates emotional atmosphere from minimal gesture or a shift in expression. The universality of his characters and their simple human stories allows us to identify with their predicaments.
The first half comprises a selection - different each evening - of his best-loved scenarios. On opening night, we were treated to: The Creation of the World, The Public Garden, the Bird Keeper, The Trial The Hands and, lastly, Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death.
After interval, Marceau returns as his popular clown, the sweet and tragic character, Bip, in a series of scenes; Bip as a Street Musician, Bip and the Dating Service, and The Mask Maker.
It is The Mask Maker, which prompted the audience to stand and cheer. It is a classic yet simple mime scenario. The crown is delighted like children by the swift and flawless changes of 'masked' expression by this consummate mime.
Another crowd-pleaser (and my favourite) was the old woman, knitting and gossiping at speed in The Public Garden.
The legal eagles in The Trial are uncannily recognisable: flamboyant and arrogant prosecutor, sympathy-seeking defence lawyer, hapless defendant and stately old judge.
On board ship in Bip at Sea, he convinces us of rising seas, rocking ship and surging seasickness. His poignant expectation of his ideal date in The Dating Service, is hilarious, charming and romantic. The tango with his monstrously tall nightmare date, is riotous.
The show is exceptionally well paced. He intersperses long and short, tragic and comic pieces. It is a fine night 's entertainment and, we can assume, we will never see him again in this country.
By Kate Herbert