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July 1, 2011 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Echolalia And Temptatio

Echolalia And Temptation at Bats are perhaps two of the most excellent examples of clown work you’re gonna get the chance to see any time soon. And regardless if you complete reading this review, go. Returning after a wee one-night-only season last December, these two performers, Sampo Kurppa (originally of Finland) and Jenny McArthur offer a refreshing exploration of humanity at its most basic. In each scenario the repetitive everyday lifestyle is challenged by a supposedly mundane object. Crisis ensues.

Jenny McArthur begins the evening with ‘Echolalia’ (an admirable feat in itself, considering the audience of bedraggled theatre-goers, freshly sprinkled with the latest maelstrom a la mode), a window into the daily existence of McArthur’s affectionate clown, Echo. Come the morning she wakes, marches to the sound of her own hummed bugle, does her makeup and dines on a banana, shortbread and a cup of something-something served in Crown Lynn. She speaks, so we’re not entirely left to figure things out on our own; her repertoire includes a vast range of lines of this, that and the other, in a variety of voices and accents. She is, in short, quite ridiculous. After the meal, Echo prepares to leave (bag, gloves and shoes), until she gets to the door which consequently will not let her out. McArthur’s tender performance as Echo is both delightful and heart breaking, complimented by a gloriously simple concept, and a soundtrack to boot. A beautifully crafted dance intersects Echo’s days and nights, a highlight of demanding physical stamina. I shall not reveal the conclusion, but by all means my applause was rapturous.

Now, unlike McArthur’s Echo, Sampo Kurppa’s clown doesn’t have a name. Or words. He is a tall pedantic type fellow of the antiseptic disposition, who takes his tea break on a tray on a desk with a chair, a lamp and – ingenious creation – a post flap. Across the way sits a packet of cigarettes. As by the name’s suggestion, ‘Temptation’ lavishly determines just that. Poor guy, it should seem everything is going wrong for him today – his tea pot has a funny face, his mug has no handle – and the natural comfort emanates as the well earned cigarette. However, there appears to be some sort of moral aversion, as the gentleman fights his desires through a fascinating array of media that purely gurgles for joy. Kurppa’s performance as the man at the end of his tether is nothing short of inspired, perfectly merging macabre violence with wit and humor. It is undeniably a very dark, very foreboding, piece, but Kurppa’s physical brilliance and sheer watchable-ness immediately lifts the mood. He juggles, he moans, his fingers dance in ripples and waves, he bites his nails ‘til the blood coats his mouth; all combined with an astute awareness of light and dark, fast and slow, loud and silent. This performance disappears in a matter of moments.

I entered the theatre wet, cold, and angry. And it should just so happen that as I left, atleast one part of me was, indeed, quite the opposite.


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