Thursday, 8 May 2008

Big Business by the Business, May 8, 2008

Big Business by the Business
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, May 8 to May 17, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

If you don’t get to see clowns – good clowns – often, Big Business, directed by Ian Pidd, is the show for you. 

These four eccentrics come from the heritage of French clowns and The Marx Brothers. They create an entire, idiosyncratic world full of prat falls and sight gags. Ironically four women wearing bad suits, absurd wigs, caterpillar moustaches and spectacles play these four idiotic businessmen

As in any clown show, the narrative is minimal. The jokes arise from the status games between the four characters, their complex and silly rituals, failures and successes. The four live together. Each day they perform their breakfast ritual, prepare their thermos flasks and toddle off to work at their peculiar business. At work they engage in a bizarre production line of mad professor gadgets that produce – well, you’ll have to see the product.

At the top of this pecking order is Pierre (Clare Bartholomew). A plump gourmand (or glutton) who hogs space on the couch and in the bed they all share. Number Two seems to be Barry (Penny Baron) a nimble fellow and sharp dresser who cuts a caper and moons over his golden Sheriff’s badge.

Paul (Kate Kantor) is a cheerful sporty type who adores his gold Nike running shoe (one shoe only) and poor dowdy little Ray (Glynis Angell) who looks like a public servant from the 1950s is the submissive and bullied Number Four in this crazy troupe.

There are some delightful moments between the four clowns. Their manipulation of their contraptions makes some very funny routines. Their celebratory party is a grotesque and hilarious parody of high flyers who use cocaine, fly helicopters and dress to the nines. Their antics are enhanced by playful sound effects and live music (Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey).

In this world madness rules instead of our social norms. It is the detail of the characters, their weird relationships and comic business that makes this show delectable. There are a few false endings and plenty of repetition (that’s clowns for you!) but it is a fabulous romp in the theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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