Shirin Majd: Kooch

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The Edinburgh Fringe is all about talented performers, & there can be few in the city this August as talented as Shirin Majd & her ensemble


Hello Shirin, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
My background is Iranian but I’ve been living in Australia for the last 8 years.

Why the big move?
One of the reasons that I moved to Australia with my family is to become a solo singer, which I couldn’t be in Iran to perform publicly as a soloist. But I started my musical training and pursued my singing career in Iran.

Can you tell us about your training in the arts?
At age 10, I began learning classical guitar and then at age 17, I began studying classical singing and joined the choir of Tehran Symphony Orchestra. I went to Armenia to participate in Hasmik Hasagorchian classes and later attended summer courses at the prestigious Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg, studying with Professor Alessandra Althoff and Barbara Bonney. In 2010 I went on to study Opera and music at the Johann-Joseph Fux Konservatorium and at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria for one year. Since I moved to Australia, I continued my education in classical singing with Margaret Schindler and Lisa Gasteen. I graduated in Master of Music Performance (Classical Singing / Opera) and Master of Vocal Pedagogy at the Queensland Conservatorium. I’ve also completed Diploma of Sound Production.

Where did your appreciation of Jazz come from?
14 years ago in Iran my teacher gave me a new song called “Summertime” by George Gershwin from Porgy and Bess Opera. This is a popular song between classical and Jazz singers. I really loved it and I started listening to different version of the song. While digging, I came to Ella Fitzgerald’s version and then my appreciation of Jazz got stronger and continued till now.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
In Australia, with the sunny and nice weather, I would like to be on the beach with my family, friends or alone; listening to lovely music and reading my book.

You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
I am really excited about my performances in the Edinburgh Fringe. I will perform my new project called “Kooch”, a multi-art performance based on Folk songs (we chose these songs in different languages such as Farsi, Turkish, Spanish & English) which Mastaneh (composer and one of the creators) and I gathered them. I will sing in western classical style on jazz arrangements of folk music along with a dancer, videos and visual art. This will accompany us to interpret the meaning of the songs.

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Can you describe some of the musical styles from Iran?
We have traditional style music (Dastgah and Magham), and singing folk music as well. However, these days like other countries the pop and fusion music have become more popular. Personally I like fusion music based on Folk or traditional Dastgah.

What is the cultural landscape of Iran in 2019 – are women more readily accepted there as performers there?
In my last visit 5 years ago, I noticed that women are more involved in the music industry compared to the time I left Iran but since the government rules are still against women’s freedom to sing solo or play instruments, the government can ban musicians from performing. Iranian women are always active and they are fighting against the rules, which restrict their freedom as a human being.

Who are you collaborating with & what are their roles?
Sydney Cabioc is my Show Manager for these performances, and Mastaneh Nazarian is the composer of Kooch project. Iraya Noble (dancer) and Douglas Kemp (guitar bass) are our Edinburgh-based guest performers joining Sweet Sound Ensemble, along with Saxophone, Guitar Electric and Percussion. I will also introduce my next project and music in this performance which are composed by Mahyar Alizadeh and Basir Faghih Nasiri.

What is, would you say, the quintessence of Nazarian’s creativity?
I have been working with her for more than 3 years now. I think she is really creative and she has this ability to explore her feelings in her compositions and arrangements. She captures a unique and personal narrative style.

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You know a good show when it happens, what are the special ingredients?
I think the special ingredient for a good show is a good artistic idea, which can have a perfect impact on the audience and engage different art forms to achieve a better result. Then, I’d develop that idea by working with a professional crew whom have similar contemplations. As an Artistic Director/Singer, I am always looking for opportunities to collaborate across cultures with exceptional artists from Australia and abroad. I believe in the energy of teamwork.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show on the streets of Edinburgh, what do you say?
What is “home” for you? Come to the show, Kooch, and hear Shirin Majd and her ensemble perform a special and beautiful arrangement of folk songs from around the world. Enjoy a fusion of opera, dance, jazz, and visual arts presented in traditional and new songs from the Farsi, Turkish, Spanish and English languages. Enjoy an evening of travelling the world without leaving the excitement and comfort of the Edinburgh Fringe!

What does the rest of 2019 hold in store for Shirin Majd?
I will have a tour around Australia in October and November of the Kooch project, which is really exciting. I will publish my new Album, “Secret,” by the end of 2019 which is in two languages, Farsi and English.


Kooch

Paradise in Augustines

Aug 19-20 (19:20)

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www.shirinmajd.com

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An Interview with Mandy Muden

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Blending the magic of comedy & the comedy of magic, Mandy Muden is ready to wow the Edinburgh Fringe…


Hello Mandy, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
London

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
4 years old. I got a doll and my brother got a magic set for Christmas. I wanted the magic set he wanted the doll.

Can you tell us about your training?
I was privileged to be mentored by the legendary Pat Page and comedy clubs. Also I just worked as hard as I could.

Can you tell us about your experience on last year’s Britain’s Got Talent?
I just loved it. There are all sorts of nonsense saying ti is fixed, I didn’t feel that at all. I had a ball.

Has BGT changed your life?
I’m a lot busier.

You’ve been on TV quite as bit – which appearances do you like to watch back the most?
I don’t watch any back. I can’t bear to see myself on TV

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You’ve got three famous entertainers (dead or alive) coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Bette Milder, Joan Rivers and the amazing Jonathan. I would probably just get in a couple of crates and something herbal to smoke.

What are the creative processes behind writing your material?
Just sit down and write. I find it very hard but that is the only way.

What is it about being performing in front of other people that makes you tick?
Its the only place I can relax. Because you can’t think about anything else.

You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
It will be comedy and magic. I just want people to have a good laugh

How do you find blending the two pillars of your style; magic & comedy – is it a fine art?
I find most things funny. I really find it hard to take anything seriously.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show on the streets of Edinburgh, what do you say?
Come and have a laugh and see some magic.


Mandy Muden is Not the Invisible Woman

Gilded Balloon Teviot

July 31-Aug 26 (16:00)

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www.mandymudenmagic.com

Spangled Cabaret

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The Blue Arrow Club
Glasgow
March 18th, 2019


It’s always exciting to fetch up at a venue you’ve not been to before and the Blue Arrow in Sauchiehall Street didn’t disappoint. You walk downstairs from the slightly hidden entrance to enter a warm, welcoming and cosy space, home to the famous Spangled Cabaret, billed as being the longest running monthly alternative variety show in Glasgow. “Expect the unexpected” we are told. “No holds barred”. I assure you, the announcer wasn’t kidding.

Anna Secret Poet got the show off to a riotous start with his hilarious music act. He may have been only one man and a guitar, but he played like a whole band as he regaled us with ever crazier lyrics, including one song concerning sausages and another on eyebrows. Hot on his heels came one Derek McLuckie who tore down and burst through all kinds of messy prejudices with the kind of language that would have been deeply shocking if it hadn’t transcended the crass-ness by being totally funny, and somehow poetic and fascinating all at the same time.

And that was only about a half hour into the show, with so much still to look forward to. As the evening progressed the atmosphere developed a perfect rhythm that gave a new meaning to fun and entertainment, and an entirely fresh and different take on the concept of cabaret itself – I guess that’s why it styles itself as “alternative”. Because the venue was so relaxed with its red lighting along walls and glorious sexy stage, taking it in became more and more of a joy, encompassing poetry, drag, burlesque, magic.

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As to the performers, all displayed a great sense of open-ness with the audience as they performed their widely different individual variety acts, and yet coalesced with each other to create their part of the artwork. For you realise that cabaret done well IS an art form; it holds you close and then opens you up in all kinds of ways in a glorious display of sensations and emotions. You feel there is sincerity and a genuinely warm welcome throughout, not least in the burlesque acts by Miss Innocence Bliss and Kim Khaos, who graced the stage with outstanding beauty and wonderful strength.

We had been promised an evening where there were no safety nets; where things could become explosive and exposed, and where the performers on stage, with clown-like directness, would not hold back from giving us personal opinions, experiences, gripes, vulnerabilities. This is thundering cabaret at its very best – total, inexplicable lovely. I can only say thank you for a great evening’s entertainment from wonderful and talented people speaking out loud and very proud but also pious and considerate. It’s on every month – you have to seek it out and come!

Daniel Donnolly

five-stars

An Interview with Jascha Boyce

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Jascha Boyce & her divine collaborators are about to tour the whole planet… The Mumble caught up with her before that massive, rather acrobatic leap…


Hello Jascha, first things first, can you tell me what you got for Christmas?
French lessons, a collection of cookbooks and pink linen bed sheets.

Great – so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Adelaide, South Australia and I am currently in my brand new house in Mitcham, South Australia but I am about to head off on tour to New Zealand, Sweden and Korea.

When did you first realise you were, well, circussy?
I started training circus, as an alternative to ballet or playing a sport, when I was only 4 years old at Cirkidz Circus School and I never left! I was offered a place in the performing troupe when I was 9 and was a coach at the circus school for close to 10 years before founding Gravity & Other Myths. So I guess I have always known!

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How did you get into the performance side & what are your fortes?
I have been performing circus since I was 9 years old! After graduating from school myself and 6 friends decided we wanted to keep training and performing together and that is when Gravity & Other Myths was born! Since then we have created four successful works and I have been touring full time for the past 6 years. I am a flyer in the company and I specialise in group acrobatics and hand to hand.

If your Ensemble acrobatic performance style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Trust, connection and lots of sweat.

You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
They would be Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali and I would make an Italian feast featuring antipasto, homemade spaghetti puttanesca and tiramisu!

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Can you tell us about Gravity & Other Myths ?
Gravity & Other Myths (GOM) is an internationally renowned circus company pushing the boundaries of contemporary circus. Formed in Adelaide, Australia in 2009, GOM has rocketed to stellar acclaim with a series of disarmingly accomplished ensemble works. GOM’s work utilises an honest approach to performance, to create shows with a focus on human connection and acrobatic virtuosity.

What does Jascha Boyce like to do when she’s not being creative?
I love to cook, drink natural wine, go on adventures and play with my two dachshunds – Lilu and Dexter.

What is it about being performing in front of other people that makes you tick?
I think it is the thrill of being able to do what I love, with the people I love to provoke people all over the world to think more deeply while leaving them filled with joy!

What have you got for us this year?
This year will be the first year we have 3 different shows on the road at the same time! Wish us luck!

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You’re performing at this year’s Auckland Arts Festival this month; what will you be bringing to the table?
We are very excited to be bringing Backbone to Auckland Festival! Even though Australia and New Zealand are so close geographically, we hardly ever get the opportunity to tour there! We can’t wait! We are also bringing a little side project – Jelly or Jam – to the festival. Its a show for young people filled with acrobatics, real stories about making a friend and plenty of messy, squishy, jelly!

Since 2017 its received a great deal of critical acclaim – how does that make you feel?
This rollercoaster ride is still all very surreal. It is GOM’s 10th anniversary this year and we can’t believe it has gone so quickly but we have definitely squeezed in so much into the past few years. It is so humbling to be able to create a work that is received so incredibly well all over the world!

Where did the idea for Backbone originate, & is the reality fulfilling your original vision?
Backbone examines strength in all of it’s forms, physical, emotional, collective and individual. Strength is so inherent in what we do as acrobats, so naturally became an intriguing theme and idea to examine. The work is always evolving and developing but we feel it does fulfil our original vision of creating a work of scale that explores a deeper idea while still remaining accessible and honest.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Aukland, what would you say?
Don’t miss the NZ premiere of the world renowned acrobatic work, Backbone! If you want to feel things, laugh out loud, and gasp involuntarily this show is for you! GOM welcomes their audience into a world of humanity, skill and honesty. The beast that is Backbone will not disappoint!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
After Auckland we head on tour for the rest of the year… to Sweden, Korea, Edinburgh, Spain, Italy, Vanuatu, North America… just to name a few!


BACKBONE

Auckland Arts Festival

Mar 14-17. ASB Theatre

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www.gravityandothermyths.com.au

An Interview with Keith Brown

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The internationally renowned wizardry of Mr Keith Brown will soon be sparkling around Vancouver. The Mumble caught up with the fellow for a wee blether…


Hello Keith, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Keith: I am from London, Ontario but I recently relocated to Toronto.

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
Keith: Probably when I was 13. It’s when I got my first gig as a magician performing at a local pub down my street. I had already been doing magic for a few years but it was more of a hobby. It was around this time that I realized I was doing something special and that I could really pursue this as a career instead of just for fun. It was also when I realized how incredible lucky I was to be able to find my passion and have the support necessary to pursue it. Not everyone finds their passion let alone at such an early age.

This is your 28th time performing at a Fringe festival, having toured the world in the process. Do you think the appetite for magic is different in different countries, or is there a universality to what you do?
Keith: I think that magic is a universal language. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all and let the magic speak for itself. However, there are definitely cultures where magic plays a greater role and has a bigger cultural significance. I was recently in Africa and had to be careful of who I performed for in case they took it the wrong way. Where as in Asia magic is very much ingrained in their culture.

How did performing in front of the First Lady of Iceland turn out?
Keith: She sat front row with her 5 and 7 year old. They had a great time! I honestly still can’t believe it happened and all I did was have the courage to send an email and invite them.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
Keith: Everything just clicks and it’s a well oiled machine. I think the special ingredients are being mentally and physically prepped. There’s nothing worse than doing a show sick or on zero sleep. Also, a willing audience. An audience that’s ready to have fun, participate and enjoy mystery. It’s a lot harder to win over an audience when they don’t want to be there. However, I find that’s rarely the case at Fringe. Standing behind the curtains and hearing the roar of the audience before you even walk out is usually a good indicator.

What does Keith Brown like to do when he’s not being, well, magical?
Keith: I like to travel, hang out with friends and family. My show is rather high energy so I enjoy my down time and doing something low key like seeing a movie, trying new food or grabbing a drink. I like learning new things, challenging myself and seeing the magic in everyday life.

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You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Keith: I’d invite Steve Martin, Gary Vaynerchuck and Dai Vernon, arguably the most influential magician in the last 100 years, and someone who has deeply influenced my thoughts and approach to magic. Runners up would be Elon Musk, Einstein, Kevin Heart, Howard Thurston, Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser, Salvador Dali & Jim Carrey. I already have a hard time deciding what I want to eat, but… Steak & goat cheese salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. Barbecued pears with blue cheese, pine nuts and dried cranberries. Make your own pizzas because who doesn’t love a good pizza? Dirt pie, dutch apple pie and vanilla ice cream. I am a child trapped in a man’s body.

If your performance style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Keith: This interview is making me hungry. I’d go with a homemade hearty chicken noodle soup. Something that’s satisfying and filling, plenty of veggies and with the right amount of spice.

Do you find it difficult or easy to blend storytelling with magic?
Keith: Yes and no. Some tricks or effects can stand by themselves and don’t need a story. They are the story. However, others can really benefit from a story to take it to another level. To make it more than just a trick and give it some meaning. The hardest part is finding a story worth telling and pairing it with the correct trick. It’s also hard to find a story that fits my voice, my personality and my character. I see and come up with tricks all the times that don’t fit my performance style and would be better suited for another magician. Some of the stories I do tell in the show have taken a life time to develop, and I am still tweaking them.

You will soon be performing at the Vancouver Fringe – what have you got for us this year?
Keith: I have an interactive magic and story telling show that features the story of how I got to perform at a Stanley Cup party before I could even drive a car, as well as the trick that put me in the hospital. There’s everything from mind reading, feats of memory and magic classics. It’s magic with every day objects that you can find around the house or get from the store. It’s participatory magic that the audience helps create!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Keith: I was chosen Toronto’s BEST Magician and I am not even from Toronto. I was featured on TEDx and am a best selling author. I have been doing this for over 16 years, longer than I haven’t, because I love it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do!


Absolute Magic

Studio 1398

September 7 @ 5:00 PM (Half Price Tickets!)
Sun, September 9 @ 7:45 PM
Mon, September 10 @ 10:15 PM
Thu, September 13 @ 6:45 PM
Fri, September 14 @ 8:45 PM
Sat, September 15 @ 3:00 PM

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www.AbsoluteMagic.ca

Void

Mele Broomes in Void at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Tom Forster


V/DA and MHz in association with Feral
Summerhall
August 14-26


Part of the Made in Scotland showcase, VOID is one-woman dance performance based on J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, and reimagined from the perspective of a Black woman, Angela. Concrete Island was the second in an urban disaster trilogy with a white, male, middle class protagonist facing his internal psychological demons after a car crash. The environment remains harsh and sterile, as Angela is trapped alone in an industrial landscape rendered harsh by inspired lighting and sound effects inextricably entwined with the frenetic, disturbing choreography. Ballard’s cool prose has been replaced by a vibrant physical retelling of entering the terror of a psychological void. The script is not just flipped, but turned inside out, showing us what could be termed the ‘negative’ of the privileged, patriarchal supremacy; the internalised trauma of the negation of self, as she grapples with the pain of fully confronting her reality. Yet ‘negative’ is as complex a term as ‘void’, as the show explores. If you are familiar with any of Mele Broome’s previous dance performances such as Grin, you will know to expect a highly conceptual piece. The Character and Concept Consultants are Ashanti Harris, an artist, dancer and activist who is one of the co-founders of Project X Dance Company along with Mele Broomes and Rhea Lewis. V/DA itself is made up of Broomes, Claricia Kruithof and Sabrina Henry. Adura Onashile is a playwright and performer known for Expensive Shit and HeLa, the story of Henrietta Lacks. The innovative MHz scenography is integral to the show, produced by Megahertz duo Bex Anson and Dav Bernard. The dramaturg is Lou Cope and the overall producers that form Feral are Jill Smith, Kathryn Boyle and Conner Milliken.

With a team like this, multilayered complexity is a given. In the production, the experience of marginalisation is pushed to the extreme, and we are pulled along for the ride. Broomes explores the possibility of agency in the placing of oneself fully outside that system of oppression, depending on how you use the experience of being on the empty, neglected hinterland. The first thing is to find a spark of life within, and test the environment without, expressed in tentative, incredibly controlled finger movements after the initial car crash. We’re already invested in her finding her lifeline, and we feel her urgency as she attempts to get attention from passersby. We recognise the futility of imploring those who cannot see you for help. The piece has also been influenced by text The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study’ by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten which sees the potential for revolution in inhabiting the despised chaos that forms the shadow of the values of the Enlightenment. Placing oneself necessarily outside the system to allow for physical and psychological survival, including the space for independent thought, has a long tradition in maronnage in slave societies in the Americas and also the strength of commonality that comes from each other in those communities. What happens in a post industrial society where our lives are marginalised and also atomised? It takes determination to move yourself away from that mental space where reason and logic continue their own mental colonialism. A conversation is impossible with those who are indoctrinated into the superiority of their system. As Bob Marley sang, no one but ourselves can free our minds.

In this reimagining, Angela remains an architect.  As she is forced to the margins of a decaying environment, this allows the clarity to imagine and reconstruct a better future. Not just the physical environment, but the inner landscape of oneself. As Angela violently fights and struggles within the darkness of a black dustbin bag, she is able to metamorphosize within her chrysalis. Demolishing the inner architecture of colonialism must precede the process of reconstruction. The deliberate unravelling of the ‘false self’ Fanonian mask of white femininity symbolised in her heels, impotently hanging from the wire fence, allows for the rekindling of real strength and power. As her high heels come off, Angela must reground herself by reclaiming her identity on her own terms. To the sound of the steady beat that has come down through the generations, Angela draws strength from Black women’s historical struggles for freedom in order to reclaim her present identity on her own terms. The architect of her future takes the scraps of her false costume to create a head wrap before our eyes with an air of self-determination and defiance. By self-regulating the presentation of herself, the headwrap becomes a potent symbol of the internal reclamation of power. How deceptively fertile the void can be.

Broomes will play with the audience in breathtaking physical contortions, such as moving into a headstand into a scorpion pose. While she does this, she disconcertingly manages to look at the audience in an intense stare that somehow bizarrely dares the audience to reflect on their own reactions at observing the working out of her own trauma. Physically, Broome’s strength and control are mind-blowing. Her long braids are pulled, jerking her head to and fro as if her strands of hair are antennae trying to make sense of fleeting, intense vibrations in the environment. The density of the movements conveys the resistance inherent in moving to incoherent and impossible demands of the exterior. The feeling of immersion in a harsh industrial landscape and the chaotic energy we feel from the erratic choreography would not work without the industrial soundscape. Urban sounds are sampled, and the movements against the fence create the disturbing soundtrack and industrial noise pollution which helps to keep us all on edge like in the townscapes we inhabit in our everyday lives.

Thought-provoking is an overused, almost throw-away phrase, but this dazzling performance triggered a tsunami of thoughts. As our society is based on a philosophical culture of white male rationality necessarily detached from body and feeling, then non-verbal communication through such a powerful dance performance is the perfect way to step outside these all-encompassing modes of thinking and seeing. It strikes at the heart of the most cherished and celebrated foundations of our unbalanced society, which is what ironically makes VOID’s true effect beyond words.

Lisa Williams

five-stars

Goodbye… I’m Leaving

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The Caves
Aug 21-22, 26 (23.59)


As I watched the two members of La Barca dei Soli perform their clown routines, I found my spirit soar along its past lives to medieval towns, to a provincial child staring wide-eyed with glee at a pair of touring Provençal street entertainers. La Barca have hit the seam, the tradition is with them, they are Jedis of the clowning art. Their Yoda is, unsurprisingly, Philippe Gaulier, & to see La Barca perform is to witness the genius of Monsieur Gaulier, whose fussy eye has helped in the development of the show.

Goodbye…I’m Leaving is the ultimate comedic skit on the Don Quixote/Sancho Panza archetypes, stuffed full of myriad ingredients which have infused themselves into the Clowning tradition. Our two performers are the wiry, classically exuberant Claudio Del Toro (Italy) and eye-brimming Armando Gonzalez (Mexico), the former a Basil Fawlty, the latter ‘Papa Guinea;’ a naughty, precocious, mischeivous child in a grown man’s body.

Their show consists of an expositive exploration of the nuances & combinations surrounding a single piece of dialogue/performance; & as we follow this impressive education in clowning, the amusement levels go through the roof. Repetition can be hilarious, especially in the hands of such consummate mastery, when laughter feels like obedience, but absolutely delighted to be thus compelled. The show is on at an awkward hour – midnight – but  if you are anywhere near the Caves at that time, I beg you to see this show before it leaves Edinburgh. Trust me, La Barca could keep making up variations on their show until the candle burns down, & then keep doing it in the dark, & we’d still be laughing.

Damo

five-stars