Before a human being has even set foot on stage, Plague of Idiots have their first giggle. It wasn't much longer before the woman next to me had tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks. This contemporary take on clowning truly is the epitome of daft, with the added dimension of an affectionate satire of the arts woven through.
First we meet a frustrated actor/director, Gary Star, portrayed perfectly by the excellent Damien Warren-Smith. Gary fancies himself as a classical Shakespearean actor and is attempting to assemble a high-brow production featuring music, theatre and dance. He introduces us to his group of talentless idiots – and here I must make clear, it is only the characters who are talentless, the performers are very much the opposite.
In reality, the international cast all have background and training in clowning – and whilst the script is well written and funny, much of the humour is derived in wordless expression, movement and physical gags. Lulu (Laurent Mallet), Mariano (Giorgio Vierda) and Benjamin (Richard Kimberley) are particularly adept at having the audience in fits of laughter from mere looks.
It would be so easy, in this kind of show, for the characters to become one-dimensional. While there were moments at which I felt some of the performers were becoming a little too repetitive and prone to over-egging the pudding, in the main each had a strong sense of their character's own identity and individualistic quirkiness, meaning that the portrayals remained interesting as well as highly amusing. The contrast of the idiocy of Lulu, Benjamin, Boulette and Mariano with Gary's relative sanity (and acute frustration) is really lovely.
Gary, meanwhile, has a well-portrayed lack of self-awareness that he is in fact just as much of an idiot, and he has very many cracking moments of interplay with the audience. I wasn't quite so taken with Boulette (Fanny Duret) to begin with, until she launched into a wonderful send-up of Shakepeare's Juliet using skilled mine to great comic effect.
There were a few moments of audience interaction which were too invasive for my liking, and with which I was not entirely comfortable. But then again, I do have terribly British sensibilities when it comes to these things, I did choose to sit in the middle of the front row, and this is internationally influenced clowning.
This show is riotously funny and provides a steady stream of hilarity, a few aahs and oohs, and even the odd shriek along the way. If you like the absurd and skilled silliness, you will love this. An inventive, talented bunch, I thoroughly enjoyed this Plague Of Idiots. Be prepared for full-throttle nonsense… and sit near the front at your peril!