Goodbye, I'm leaving

Claudio Del Toro and Armando Gonzalez
La Barca dei Soli
Just the Tonic
to

The art of clowning is like the art of love, a great deal of wooing and seducing takes place, a great deal of endorphines are released, a sense of well-being floods the brain; the clown solicits love with the generous gift of laugher, opening himself to ridicule in the process and the spectator responds with a heart full of warmth and joy.

A generous clown illicits the sheer exuberant delight in life itself.

Claudio Del Toro and Armando Gonzalez are such a pair of clowns. Heralding from the prestigous École Philippe Gaulier in France, they know their craft inside out and woo the audience into complicity through a pair of mismatched characters reminiscient of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Monsieur Adler Krupp has aspirations, he wants to be an opera artiste, while Pappageni is a juvenile peasant in a back-to-front baseball cap, too smart for his companion to handle. The plot could be called The Stooge’s Revenge. Monsieur's desires are flummoxed by Pappageni's little games of resistance and the audience colludes with laughter: the rebel clown, the crafty trickster, the dissembler, you just want to go and hug him, which many people did after the show. Monsieur's frustations build until they explode in comic rant worthy of an operatic primadonna, which is sadly the closest he is likely to come to achieving his dream. Like Don Quixote, this is the tragedy of the little man caught up in desires for greater things.

Like the art of love, clowning delays the climax. Repetitions, tantalisingly reinventing the lazzi (a traditional running gag) through subtle twists and fresh new turns, heighten the tension, piling up the anticipation for a denouement that is perfectly timed.

They do eventually perform the famous Neapolitan song "Funiculì-funiculà", to satisfy Monsieur, as well as the audience, and do so with accomplished voices and great panache. It is a moment where cooperation triumphs.

To heighten the analogy between the lover and beloved, these characters want their audience to love them. Essentially, they are a couple of adult kids, as is obvious from their costumes (Monsieur is dressed like an 11-year-old taking his first communion), the audience, the beloved, is Mama, and they are attention seekering rivals for her love, for our nurturing love.

With subtle physicality and a fine sense of timing, these endearing characters elicit so much laughter I couldn’t wait for my turn in the queue to give them a hug.

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher