Flawless masks and puppetry with Familie Flöz
A ghostly vision of a floating puppet lady in white presides at the start and finish of Familie Flöz's story of waking dreams and events behind the scenes. She is an eerie reminder of mortality, that we are here for a short time. As the story unfolds, the company reveal an astonishing technical prowess and an epic sweep of storytelling. What follows is a dizzying excursion through the lives of lonely stage technicians, one priapic choreographer and a snooty orchestra. Here, the drama off-stage is just as heightened as it is on. All the stage hands and wardrobe people want is their chance to shine.
The boundless skills of the three performers seem like alchemy, in creating nearly 30 characters using a simple tilt of the head or slight gesticulation with hands. Not a single word is spoken, yet still they provoke belly laughs, or squeeze hearts like sponges. At first, the play seems like a slapstick romp around silent comedy, with numerous pratfalls. However, as it develops, so too do the rich inner lives of the main characters, all of whom desire more than life has dealt them.
Petty rivalry, love and caring for pets becomes hilarious, awful, or just hilariously awful. The gorgeous scene with a romantic pas de deux is puzzling in its execution, as the lovers appear to 'slide' into a large wooden trunk and disappear. A birth scene is as surreal as it is surprising. Familie Flöz throw curveballs, but in the most unexpected and delightful ways imaginable, and always when the story seems to be settling into one particular direction.
It is at times as though Angela Carter scripted a Marx Brothers film homage, then adapted it for the stage as a silent opera. Unique, brilliant and extremely touching: nothing short of perfection.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug (not 17), £14.50–£12.50, (£9–£10.50).