Produced by Julia Masli & Viggo Venn, Estonia / Norway / Russia / UK, 60mins
Voila! Europe Festival, London | November 13-15, 2020
Nick Awde | THE X REPORT
A handwritten sign pops up onscreen to the effect that the spirit of commedia dell’arte lies in players going into the public spaces to engage the populace with comedy, hopefully improvised.
Covid stir-crazy and with missionary zeal, a Pierrot (Julia Masli) and a Harlequin (Viggo Venn) robe up and step out beyond the confines of their flat into the semi-deserted streets of London.
The cheeky duo’s antics in unlikely locations duly engage and raise a smile from the occasional passers-by, some even gamely joining in while maintaining a “nice social distance”. Vignettes are along the lines of attempting to weightlift a building, a lion tamer in pursuit of a lion down a residential road, chasing a giant tomato through the market stalls and shops of Brixton’s Electric Avenue.
There’s interaction with the online audience too, in real-time, as this show zips to and fro between the outdoor scenes and live shorter scenes and interjections back at the flat, greenscreen effects providing a playfully hit and miss backdrop.
The outdoor takeover itself isn’t as throwaway as it looks. As the notes tell us, it stems from a project by Masli and Venn with architect Valeria Burmistrova, “aimed at transforming public spaces into magical spaces, through joyful and social-distanced performances, celebrating connection and community” – creative spaces lite with added mayhem.
Now, this is a tricky one. There’s a whole community out there who really go for this genre within a genre of improv clown – and they know that things like video happenings have long been a part of making this sort of theatre. It’s a pre-paid-up audience that recognises and celebrates the artistry. So if that’s you, read no further, you’re going to love this.
Taken from a different viewpoint, however, the pair’s improvisory mission suffers from a decent mic and camera, and they do need to ensure that their physicality is 100 percent spot-on under the unforgiving lens of the camera, ditto the double act which doesn’t gel.
Some forethought also needs to go to framing action and locations – so much of the content blends into the background and dilutes the action, including the greenscreen shots.
Still, if the message is to have fun and brighten other people’s existence, We Missed You happily ticks the box.