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“The Artist” a classy mix of physical theatre, mime and visual humour

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Thom Monckton

Auckland Arts Festival

The Artist

Q Theatre

Until March 21

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“The Artist” should come with a warning – make that two warnings. Don’t sit in the front row. You could get to go on stage as The Artist’s sttoge. Also, if you can remember where it is, bring a table tennis paddle.

We are in an artist’s studio where we encounter The Artist (Thom Monckton) who over the course of an hour produces / assembles / finds several artworks which in the end are brought together for an art exhibition. Monckton explores a number of the tropes about art and artists which he plays with or gets lost in.

He must be a French artist because he wears a blue and white striped top but no beret – so he is bit like Picasso, but his activities have him more like, Marcel Marceau the great mime artist. But then again he is also disconcertingly like the very un-French Mr Bean.

Monckton is a conjurer, acrobat, mime and contortionist  who creates endless visual jokes, making use of the artists  equipment and the everyday items of the studio. His attempts to get hold of a brush have him entangled in a table, a set of shelves and a rogue ladder while his attempts to secure some fabric to a stretcher  with a staple gun are complicated, hilarious  and dangerous.

There is an elaborate set-up around a still life where the fruit are given a life of their own and the traditional image of a bowl of fruit, bottle of wine and glass gets reworked in a clever visual  joke where the artist paints one of the real green apples red so it matches the apples in the painting .

There was a bit of audience involvement. One  young woman was cajoled onto the stage to sit for a portrait and then got given the job of painting artist’s portrait. There is also a rapid game of ping pong (remember the paddle) as he fires balls into the audience. The audience provided feedback with waves of laughter, but Monckton was particularly  concerned with the chuckles of a young child pointing at his watch, letting the parents know it was past the young ones bedtime.

Monckton displays brilliant timing and pace in a mixture of physical theatre, mime and visual humour which makes this act classy and entertaining.

While he is silent apart from a few guttural phrases the background sound and music are brilliantly integrated into the performance.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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