Chiche Capon's Cabaret
nytheatre.com review by Daniel Kelley
October 12, 2007
One of the many wonderful things about clown theatre is its ability to navigate the extremes of the human experience in a comedic way. Whether bounding off walls with excitement, exploding with a murderous rage, or having their heart broken into little pieces, a good clown can make all of these extremes hysterically funny and touching at the same time. This is exactly what Chiche Capon's Cabaret does.
From the opening moments of the play, the performers have the audience at their command. When the three main clowns, Frederic Blin, Matthieu Pillard and Patrick de Valette come out in drag, accompanied by their equally funny guitarist, Richard la Giudice, the audience is instantly cheering. It's apparent from the outset that these are performers completely in control of their craft and the crowd. They are, as they say in the show, here to "make you forget your miserable lives."
The show has no story to speak of. Chiche Capon's Cabaret is just that—a cabaret of performers, made up primarily of three central clowns playing a variety of characters. The throughline of the evening is not the story of what happens, but rather the relationships among the central clowns—the angry short leader clown, the tall awkward clown with a high voice, and the animalistic, childlike clown who dances ballet uncontrollably and wants to be an otter. We live through their trials and tribulations of trying to put on the various acts in the cabaret. They are sometimes overjoyed, sometimes nervous, but more often cruel to one another in ways that are consistently hysterically funny.
The introduction of these central clown characters comes, however, at a late point in the show. As a result of this, the show warms up slowly. The initial drag act is amusing but a little unambitious given the tremendous talents of the performers. The show truly takes off once the three central clowns are introduced, and the performers' true virtuosity is revealed.
Chiche Capon's Cabaret is performed by a French Clown troupe with an imperfect grasp of English. At times this contributes to the performance, as the clowns hurl biting asides to each other in French, and then sheepishly try to explain themselves to the audience in broken English. At times, however, it can be difficult to understand what is being said exactly. The characters themselves, and their relationships, are so strong that the language they speak in wasn't an issue for me, but is something that one should be aware of going in.
The finale of the evening is a testament to the power of these performers over an audience. Despite performing for an audience made up of usually ultra-cool and detached residents of Williamsburg, the performers of Chiche Capon's Cabaret manage a tremendous feat of audience participation. What this feat is, you will have to see to believe, and I sincerely recommend that you do so.