Arturo Brachetti - Change
Written and Directed by Sean Foley, based on the repertoire of Arturo Brachetti
The Garrick Theatre
There are possibly not enough adjectives that are adequate to explain how breathtaking this show is and 'wow' does not seem a particularly traditional way of opening a review. This is a theatrical experience, however, that will make you say just that.
Billed as the fastest quick change artist in the world (and backed up by the Guinness book of records), Arturo Brachetti is a man very much at the top of his game. Variety is certainly not dead in his eyes as he morphs before you into a selection of classic Hollywood characters, famous paintings and even the Queen. I do not want to begin to guess his secrets but would imagine rehearsals for this show would have been arduous as this is not just a one man show but a hugely technical endeavour as he shares the stage with a massive revolving cube that acts as his box of tricks. It opens onto the set containing his flat and hosts a multitude of other doorways and passages. It even splits in half towards the very end. Onto this, lighting effects and video footage are projected to reinforce the theme of the change or to act as a fake introduction to a trick. The most charming effect of all however, is the display of shadow puppetry in which he explains his childhood love for illusion and the audience are reminded that sometimes less is more.
Intertwined with all the wizardry is a loose storyline is which a young Arturo is helping an older verion of himself get ready for his final transformation. This allows old Arturo to reminisce about his old acts and guess what - yes, the young Arturo then performs that very thing. This is a conceit that works well for this show as a structure of some sort is needed to fill a full two acts but at times the idea is overstretched. The time does fly, however, and the first half seems over in a flash: it feels short and sweet but it is not until reflection afterwards that you realise quite how much has been packed into that time. This is the beauty of the show, the pace is frenetic and so if you don't recognise a character it doesn't matter as they will only populate the stage for about 30 seconds. Most are hugely recognisable however, and the inclusion of both Shrek and Harry Potter next to Nosferatu, James Bond and Casablanca (both Bogart and Bergman) is a clever move.
There are a few minor issues.At times the music did completely drown out Brachetti's voice and, whilst his homage to Fellini is very well observed, it perhaps does not carry the same resonance for audiences here as it might do in mainland Europe. It will be interesting to see, once Nine has been released, if the Fellini sequence receives a different reaction from a currently admiring but slightly confused audience. However, these problems are easy to overcome as the plot is not overly confusing and, whilst the characters presented may be unfamiliar, the visuals are just as spectacular.
This is an evening of pure and unashamed theatricality and I'll be honest - I was just as enthralled as the children sitting open mouthed next to me.
Reviewer: Amy Yorston