Chiche Capon's Cabaret
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
September 8, 2006
One of the great things about clown theatre or physical theatre is that it transcends any language barrier. The body language presented by the three bodies of France's Chiche Capon's Cabaret spoke to me loud and clear. What didn't come across as clear were the actual spoken portions of the program.
The ensemble consists of three actors and one musician. The program, as you may assume from the word "cabaret" in the title, consists of several songs, sketches, and improvisations. The actors, Patrick de Valette, Fred Blin, and Matthieu Pillard, are utterly animated in every single thing they do on stage. One of them has more English than others, while another one, the shortest of the three, is much more physical than his castmates. The third one, the tallest of the group, has the best singing voice. The musician, Richard LoGiudice, is a fantastic accompanist playing a folky, jazzy guitar style while adding his dry sense of humor to a couple of bits.
Unfortunately I was not able to put names to faces so I'll have to use these descriptions. The tall one does an interesting version of the Prince tune "Kiss" in French. I walked away from the show singing the chorus in French. The short one is an absolute scream. He has more than enough energy stored up inside his tiny frame to power Las Vegas for a month. He hops around the stage, butts his head into things, and generally dances from one point to another. I could not take my eyes off of him (of course that may be due to the fact that he couldn't stay still for even a second). Did he upstage a little? Sure, but I didn't mind because many times he was the most interesting thing to look at. He shatters the language barrier.
Most of the spoken portions are spoken by the third character and at first I accepted the broken English because he is so endearing, playing mostly the shy guy, though at times he becomes the authority figure. I really enjoyed that dichotomy, but the shyness routine got old and redundant fairly quickly and as he was searching for his words I was searching for something else to hold my attention. There was one incident when he was picking on a crying kid in the audience (the child wasn't crying out loud, just quietly to himself), and that made me feel uncomfortable on top of everything else. After a while I wished that he would have just spoken French and let his body language tell his story.
The program's set bits are funny enough but in between they try to fill space with improvisations. However, they don't really have enough English to improvise, so those moments mostly fell flat. Had the show consisted of their planned routines entirely, I think it would have been much more entertaining.
Chiche Capon's Cabaret is fun and often funny, but could be much more if it utilized more fully the international language of the body.