The Overcoat

Morris Panych and Wendy Gorling based on a story by Nikolai Gogol
Barbican Theatre
(2004)

The Overcoat is a multicultural fusion that works on several levels. It takes a story by Gogol and music by Shostakovich and combines them with elements of mime and dance to create a pleasing whole.

The plot is of a hapless man, played by Peter Anderson, who has an ordinary job and life. He tends to be controlled by others, whether the landlady at home or his fellow office workers and the boss.

After a series of mishaps, his much loved coat is finally beaten to a rag and he commissions a thing of beauty as a replacement. This coat is purple with a fur collar that must once have formed the greater part of some big cat.

In his new guise, our mild man becomes something of a tiger, much beloved by the ladies, but it cannot last. After his fifteen minutes of fame he commences a sad spiral with new coat eventually replaced by madman's straitjacket.

The music, primarily from Shostakovich's jazz and ballet suites and the two piano concertos, allows many changes in pace and rhythm. In turn, the performers can vary from mime to dance keeping the story flowing.

The real highlight is a wildly exciting, delirious nightmare accompanied by the Allegro from Shostakovich's 10th Symphony.

This is an unusual theatrical experience, presented under the banner of the London International Mime Festival, that generally maintains the balance between its different elements successfully though the plot does occasionally get subsumed.

The Overcoat will appeal to a wide audience of music, dance, performance and theatre lovers. It could be argued that this is exactly what BITE is there to do: bring the best of art from around the world to the eager eyes of the London public.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher