A Spaniard, a Frenchman, an Englishwoman and an Italian get on a train and treat us to a series of energetic and amusing clowning sketches that weave together the stories of the individuals as they travel on a very important journey. Also features a phenomenal number of other characters, pulled from within suitcases, and the skilful physicality of the persistently flexible cast.
I would recommend this show to anyone who wants a master class in physical characterisation
The four performers explode onto the stage, clearly conveying the stress and chaos of travelling through a busy train station whilst being observed by other, judging, travellers. From within the suitcases come small accessories that are the starting point for the quartet’s main characters onto which the actors build carefully observed physical characterisation to produce solid and totally convincing individuals, all running from something. Pierre, a Parisian artist, with some hilarious muses; Conchita, a mother who has upset some dangerous individuals by fabulously beating them at their own game; Marco, the younger brother of a star soldier, who is an embarrassment to his family. Finally, Lola, who is euphemistically referred to as an actress, is escaping a familiar love triangle.
The performance is very polished, the cast work as a tightly knit ensemble, every member performing a huge number of different characters over the course of the different storylines, but the portrayal of each new character was precise and clear, never allowing any hint of confusion to slip in. The humour of each new scene is brought out brilliantly, no matter how dark, with an excellent sense for the ridiculous. Even in the battlefields of World War Two there are laughs to be had. The scenes are witty and never went the way I expected them to go.
The cast are very sharply dressed, in what initially appears to be that vague ‘in the past’ go-to for theatre – shirts, waistcoat & smart dresses – but as the piece progresses we begin to learn our time and location. Projection was used to undercut the transitions between the storylines, showing views from the windows of the train.
Here is a show where it really is the journey, not the destination, that is important. The ending of the piece takes a surprising and dark turn that is incongruous to the previous tone of the piece, in an attempt to add a level of poignancy to the comedy. The destination of the train is hinted at, and it is a place no one wants these characters to end up. Then, once the audience has come to terms with the downer ending, the script comes off the rails again, with a final tableaux to a different place entirely that disregards the previous plot twist.
I would recommend this show to anyone who wants a master class in physical characterisation, whilst having a good laugh, as long as they don't mind disappointing endings.