P H O T O :





: J A M E S T A Y L O R W L S O N


ONLY BONES Acutely inventive physical tomfoolery ●●●●●

BIRD Survival tale boosted by sensory storytelling ●●●●● THE TAP PACK Putting a tap spin on Rat Pack-style showbiz ●●●●●

Thomas Monckton demonstrated what an outstanding physical clown he is via his previous solo show, The Pianist (which is back at Assembly Roxy, until 29 Aug). This, his newest work, is more distilled and maybe even funnier. The ginger-haired, rubber-faced Monckton makes

full use of his muscular, wiry, frame to induce laughs. The opening visual gag which we won’t spoil sets a tone that he pretty much sustains with no trouble at all. Spatially, his trajectory could hardly be simpler: he starts out sitting and ends up standing. His hands take on lives of their own, sharing a co-dependant relationship of dominance and submission. But this man can get comic mileage out of his

eyelid or pinkie or, because he’s so alive to the moment, a spectator’s unexpected sneeze or an insect whizzing around in the bright light of the overhead lamp beneath which the performance occurs. There’s also an aquatic ballet, barnyard sound mash-ups, head juggling, tongue-swallowing, much gargoyle facial play and more. Monckton leaves us wanting more but in the best sense. (Donald Hutera) Summerhall, 560 1581, until 28 Aug (not 22), 8.30pm, £11 (£10).

This petite, innovative piece from Sita Pieraccini might look from where you’re sitting like a solo but it is most definitely a duet. We first encounter Pieraccini marooned on a sandy island in the middle of the stage. Gradually she wakes up and begins to explore her surroundings the soil, the quick mud, the tiny spring of water, the rubbish heap; finally, the bird that becomes her friend (of sorts). All of these physical features are brought to life in the most magnificently vivid way by David Pollock’s fantastic live sound design the aural equivalent of master-puppetry, turning each texture, friction, breeze into sensations we can feel, smell and see.

In this sense, Bird is a masterclass in sensory

storytelling. Pieraccini is a beautiful movement practitioner, at times curious and cartoonish, hobbling on her tiptoes, poking things about with her stick, and at others vulnerable, such as when she is barricaded in her tent-coat against the winds.

But despite the innovations, the piece is slight on narrative and progression, the tale so subtle that even though we are watching one woman pit her wits against the elements, it sometimes doesn’t feel like much is at stake. (Lucy Ribchester) Dance Base, 225 5525, until 28 Aug (not 22), 6.30pm, £12 (£10).

This Australian song and (especially) dance show loosely models itself after the legendary Rat Pack. The premise is not without its cheesy side. We’re introduced to five guys whose worst character traits range from smarmy to stupid. They’re not impersonating any of the Rat Packers,

but instead playing sketched-in showbiz buddies in under-shaped scenes meant to set up their wisecracking camaraderie and mildly conflicted relationships. Little of this amounts to much as theatre. Several exchanges of dialogue feel forced while supposed attempts at humour fall flat. There are also some unnecessary and frankly pretty pathetic attempts at magic and juggling. What saves the performance, and helps turn it

into semi-engaging entertainment, is sheer talent. Two of the five sing, one better than passably once he drops the Sinatra-style crooning. And all of them are good and at least two very good at hoofing. After a blistering solo or two, and a few firecracker group unison routines, the gentlemen relax, wax spontaneously and hit a collective stride that would’ve more usefully been present at the start if artifice hadn’t gotten in the way. (Donald Hutera) Assembly George Square Theatre, 623 3030, until 29 Aug, 7pm, £15 (£12).

PSS PSS Heart-stealing classic clowning from Swiss company Baccalà ●●●●●

If you’re a proficient acrobat and aerialist as Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari who make up Swiss company Baccalà so clearly are surely one of the most humbling, selfless things you can do is use your skills to make yourself look incompetent, in the hope of revealing some truth about human nature, and along the way making people laugh. Such is the beauty of the clown, and here are two clowns at the

very top of their game. Pessi and Fassari seem like the innocent love children of Fellini and Mr Bean, their woeful, simple, timeless vagabondry a canvas on which they paint marvellous details. That they can draw so many facial expressions and laughs out of the act of sharing an apple or not, as is the case in the mean world of clowns is a mark of the clown’s power to both charm and humble an audience into being able to see our own foibles.

Emotions are distilled down to their basest levels

covetousness, gluttony, the need for attention and problems are solved in the most irrational way; look out for the ladder if you’re in the bottom half of the theatre.

Fassari’s posturing as he tries to sex up a diablo act reveals the gulf between fantasy and reality what we think we look like when we’re trying to be cool, and the cruel reality. Pessi meanwhile can tease out a string of laughs just by pompously hogging the limelight with an accordion.

But it’s the pair’s aerial skills or apparent lack thereof that are the grubby cherries on this glorious cake. Clambering, slipping, stomping, they demonstrate the sort of strength most acrobats would expect a round of applause for rather than a laugh happily they receive both. (Lucy Ribchester) Assembly Roxy, 623 3030, until 29 Aug, 4pm, £12–£14 (£11–£13).

18–29 Aug 2016 THE LIST FESTIVAL 57