The back room at Dragonfly is unassuming. Rows of chairs extend backwards from an archway through which the performers do their thing. Yesterday I saw a man transform that room into a magical, ridiculous, confusing, joyful space. That man is Johannes Dullin, and he's really very very good at what he does.
Playing with the space in between comedy, theatre, clowning and performance art, and it's bloody brilliant.
Come Along and Bring a Friend! is billed as a show in which "the profane plays ping-pong with the profound while reason lies chained under the table." That should give you an inkling of a beginning of the kind of thing you can expect. I don't want to give too much away, because the hour is such an unexpected brain-twisting delight that I'd prefer you went into it with few expectations. But, review it I must.
It's a five star show because Dullin constantly subverts our expectations and undermines even himself. He's playing with the idea of performance and comedy, of what's real and fake and sad and funny. That's what elevates his show above the hundreds of other standard stand-ups at the Fringe. His masterful use of space, props, music and crowd work is always dancing between the profound and the ridiculous. He flicks between musings on death, nonsense verse and silly walks, all with the confidence of a man who has spent the last fourteen years working in some of the most progressive theatre and performance spaces in Europe. It's the layers of meaning and non-meaning that are remarkable here. As an audience member you're never sure what's next or what just happened. At one point in the show we closed our eyes and Dullin said: "you are everywhere and you are nowhere." I really felt like that was true! The phrase 'on acid' is much overused in reviews, but there was a real sense of that tumbling illogic that psychadelics (and profound art) can unlock in our brains.
He recently performed this show at Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, the birthplace of Dadaism in the early 20th century, and it's clear Dullin owes a lot to that tradition. Dadaists rebelled against logic, reason and bourgeois thinking, and Dullin does Dada for the 21st century. He's playing with the space in between comedy, theatre, clowning and performance art, and it's bloody brilliant.