Ticketmaster Summer in Stages


John-Paul Zaccarini
The Drill Hall

This is the second time I've seen this show, and I could easily keep on going back for more. It is one of the most engaging and enjoyable solo performances I've ever seen and its strength lies in its diversity of theatrical languages. This is a monologue expressed through verbal dexterity, physical theatre, image theatre, visual theatre, dance and music: Total Theatre. John-Paul Zaccarini gives a virtuoso performance. It is an aesthetically delightful experience and an emotional journey of considerable depth. He took me from belly laughter to gut-wrenching fear within a few minutes. There are moments as utterly beautiful as anything I have ever witnessed on stage before. And he achieves this through a performance of consummate honesty and even humility. It has been devised by Zaccarini and director Flick Ferdinando with passion, compassion and absurd fun, ever searching for light to counteract the darker sides of humanity.

But Zaccarini captured our attention and our hearts immediately. As the audience enters there is a man in a pastel green kimono on stage kneading dough, preening himself, with a hint of dissatisfaction, in a mirror. But soon the dough becomes a baby. He cradles it lovingly against his chest, tenderly smiles, rubs his nose in its belly, powders its bottom with flour and we are smitten. Soon he is mimicking love scenes from soap operas in a variety of languages and accents, slapping on the melodramatic parody with a trowel of hilarity. Shortly, he folds seamlessly into a dance sequence on a chair and the floor that embodies his erotic longings. Within fifteen minutes one knows that this is a performer of staggering skill and versatility. Moreover, someone who can convey his insights into the human condition through sensual imagery that is moving and modest, profound yet unpretentious.

Peter Coyote's fine music adds an emotional dimension to Zaccarini's tantalising aerial dances, suspended from the ceiling on ropes and loops. While the performance swings from mood to mood, from laughter to pathos, from the here-and-now to the beyond, it is a seamless contrivance of images that never steps beyond the boundaries into obscurity. As a piece of interdisciplinary work, the audience is kept engaged by the juxtaposition of genres and the unexpected, of the sublime moments with earthy humour. Zaccarini descends soaked and almost naked from a beautiful but gritty aerial dance with water pouring above to comment in a matter of fact manner: 'that water is fucking freezing'. Playing with the audience as he frequently does, Zaccarini never lets one forget that one is watching a performance, and modestly at the end he tells us it has just been a bit of a song and dance and physical theatre etc, with no message intended, except perhaps: 'just to say I love you'. It's difficult not to return that love.

But there is something much deeper happening here between Zaccarini and his audience. This is a theatre for the 21st century, replete with those languages we have become adept at reading: the visual, the physical, and the musical. Its seamless but fragmented sweep, the absence of a cohesive linear narrative is also a welcome departure from the word-bound tradition and finds resonance in our experience of reality. I want more!

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher