JOYCE MCMILLAN on TRAGEDIE COMIQUE at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh for The Scotsman 9.6.14.
3 stars ***
THERE IS THEATRE that engages with the big stuff going on in the world around us – war, peace, industrial decline. And then there is theatre like this charming new show translated and performed by Tim Licata of Plutot La Vie, which depends for its appeal entirely on the idea that theatre audiences are a coterie, a little in-group primarily fascinated and amused by theatre itself.
So we meet our strange central character, who is both a character – a commedia dell’arte type with a large false nose – and the actor trying to play him, a much less assured individual with many insecurities. The character descends from the heavens, finds his actor, nurses him to adulthood, possesses him, and then finally leaves him to make his own way; and over 90 minutes, this meta-theatrical narrative slowly unfolds, although not without endless further meta-theatrical reflection on everything from the state of the red curtain that adorns the stage, to the performer’s relationship with Laura, the lady in charge of the lights.
Originally written by Eve Bonfanti and Yves Hunstad of La Fabrique Imaginaire, Tragedie Comique contains some fine flights of poetic writing, particularly where the performer begins to lead his actor on a quest for Time, and for Love; and Tim Licata brings a lifetime of skill and feeling to his complex double performance. Yet it’s hard not to wish that all this theatrical talent might be put to a purpose less cloyingly self-conscious; and I’m tempted to say, with Miss Jean Brodie, that for those in theatre who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like.