Presented by Plague of Idiots
Reviewed 15 February, 2018
Damien Warren-Smith is not what you’d call shy. Former front-man for Plague of Idiots, that glorious international group of clown and physical theatre geniuses who delighted Adelaide Fringe audiences a couple of years ago, Warren-Smith is back in town with his first solo show. It’s about disgruntled actor Garry Starr, who has just been kicked out of the Royal Shakespeare Company for ill-defined reasons. As the strains of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 fades, he enters, proclaiming “My name is Garry Starr; and I am on a mission. Theatre is dying and I am here to save it.” His curly dark hair forms an outsize halo. He wears skimpy white tights, a trendy black leather jacket, a big white Elizabethan ruff and soft black wrestling boots.
In order to revive theatre in its many forms, Warren-Smith sets himself the challenge of performing as many different genres of theatre as he can in the fifty minutes of the show. His list includes Physical Theatre, Classical Theatre, Burlesque, Contemporary Dance, Farce, Butoh, Slapstick, Romantic Comedy, Tragedy, Mask, Clown and Musical Theatre. Although the pace is manic, each one of these segments leaves the audience laughing. A lot. The steady hand of his director (the wonderful Cal McCrystal) is seen everywhere.
Frequently Warren-Smith enlists audience assistance. Sometimes he simply looks at them until they willingly leave their seat and join him. Although he speaks (and sings well, too!), his performance skills work way beyond words. His École Philippe Gaulier training is evident at every turn; he maintains fierce focus and formidable physical discipline allied with a charming lack of fear of looking like an idiot. He invites us to enjoy his frequent discomfitures. We howl with laughter, forgetting how hard-won are those skills with which he so effortlessly entertains us.
Throughout the programme there are high points – just wait for the teddy-bear rolls! There’s the spaghetti in Romanic Comedy, the swag of Shakespeare performed at race-call speed, the purity of his Noh-theatre mask work tainted by a suspiciously Travolta move, while Contemporary Dance is all you could expect. Pool noodles feature in Slapstick, and there’s a lace-trimmed black dress for Farce.
Costumes and props come and go with dizzying speed, but everything works towards the undercurrent of desperation in Warren-Smith’s Starr character. It is thanks to his unwavering acting energy that we willingly collude with him in his journey. His clown is complex and disturbing (as many great clowns are), and there’s a showpiece highlighting his gymnastic skills.
Warren-Smith’s ability to include his audience at all levels of the action means that, at the show’s end, we feel as if we have all been on an anarchic play-date with a six-foot-two toddler with a mop of fuzzy hair, no inhibitions and far too much raspberry cordial on board. It’s an exhilarating feeling.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Rating out of 5: 5 stars
Venue: The Producers – Warehouse
Season: 15th February- 2nd March 2018
Duration: 50 minutes
Tickets: Full Price: $28.00 Concession: $14.00