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Il Panico di Pantalone

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
3 stars
Lung Ha’s Theatre Company have long been fabled for their large scale inclusive shows which sometimes puts as many as thirty performers with learning disabilities into the spotlight. Beyond these events, it’s actually the company’s stripped-down small-scale shows that allow more creative focus, as this double bill of short Commedia D’ell arte inspired works proves. In his swansong as artistic director of the company, Clark Crystal has utilised a cast of just five to don masks and make merry with a new look at these classic romps.

The opening piece, Il Panico di Pantalone (Pantalone’s Panic), finds Pantalone setting the wheels in motion for his wedding day. With his servants Arlecchino and Pulcinella in tow, however, a comedy of errors ensues which makes sure the rightful suitor gets the girl. At forty minutes long, and bolstered by a live score by John Sampson and Robert Pettigrew, what’s essentially an extended sketch gives vent to the material’s more madcap elements, happy ending and all.

Following a brief musical interlude, Sampson fanfares in the second piece, Il Panico di Capitano (Captain’s Panic) is even shorter, and puts the piece’s eponymous hero in charge of a motley Dad’s Army-like crew preparing to go into battle. As the regiment don combat gear for the frontline, the promise of peace, alas, is premature. There’s something poignantly Blackadderish in this vignette’s final moment, which similarly finds the troops caught napping. Following the frivolity that preceded it, this comes as quite a shock, and one wonders whether it might be wiser to switch the two works around. Unless, of course, Lung Ha’s have subversion on their mind in this deceptively bright double bill.

The Herald, October 19th 2008

ends

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