Watching people tortured can be funny.
Bigre, a Compagnie le fils du Grand Réseau Production, presented by Canadian Stage in collaboration with Théâtre Francaise de Toronto, opened tonight at the Berkeley St Theatre. In our modern gentrified cities, the impossibly tight spaces people are being forced to live in present the opportunity for phenomenal physical comedy.
It’s co-written and co-created by Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier & Olivier Martin Salvan, directed by Pierre Guillois, and performed by Guillois alternating with Bruno Fleury, Eléonore Auzou-Connes alternating with Agathe L’Huillier, and Jonathan Pinto-Rocha.
By accident I watched the recent film Stan & Ollie earlier this week, a bio-pic about the latter years of Laurel & Hardy that reminds you of some of the simplest tropes in comedy. Ditto tonight, including some gags that are literally centuries old: and still getting laughs. Guillois, Auzou-Connes and Pinto-Rocha each had moments of genuine brilliance.
It’s one of those shows that I watched, envying the performers, wishing I could be up there on that stage. You could see how much fun this was, although the work is hard, not for the faint of heart.
The space –letting us peer into three tiny adjacent apartments—is really a pretense for humour. The seeming impossibility of life inspires the ingenuity of each of them in different ways, like little flowers that insist on bursting out of the dirt. Lighting, sound & music help segment the sequences, some long, some short, as we get deeper and deeper into the world of this fascinating trio. I defy you to see this show and not fall in love with them. While there’s pain there is also pathos & vulnerability. The emotional range is surprising.
The laughter moves around in the theatre. I found myself fascinated that at times people near me were guffawing, at other times they were silent when it was my turn. Sometimes it’s painful, nervous laughs, sometimes pure fun.
Glimpsing three people living in the tiny space, tripping over one another, driving one another nuts? Yet life happens. They eat, they sleep, they have all their bodily functions (yes all of them), desperately human and totally hilarious.
While there’s an enormous amount of sound and noise, we’re not hearing words. Mouths move. Hands & legs gyrate. Hair gets very messed up. The wind blows. But especially bodies, three bodies sometimes discreet and separate, sometimes interacting. All three performers show genuine physical eloquence.
This is one of those inspiring shows that reminds you of the possibilities of live theatre & creative performance. You will likely hear people telling you to go see this, and I’d echo that sentiment.
What is it exactly? There are elements of burlesque, of Commedia dell’Arte, clowns, comedy. Knowing what to call it is not important. It’s funny. It’s not verbal but physical. And it’s truly magical.
Bigre continues at the Berkeley St Theatre until April 28th.