Julien Cottereau wins over his audience within seconds. Childlike and immediately likeable, he arrives on stage in flares and a silly hat, sweeping the floor with an imaginary broom. He follows with a captivating mime act, in which he cleans the stage and has a small fight with some chewing gum. Within ten minutes it’s easy to forget that he is miming, and you can fully believe that he is stretching a piece of gum into a skipping rope, or having a scuffle with a barking dog. The sound effects are flawless: the clown's comic facial expressions barely flicker under the strain of enormous explosions. It’s hard to believe that these noises are coming from his mouth and not a sound-system.
Cottereau’s manner is nothing short of enchanting, like an extra-loveable Mr. Bean. The children in the audience are absolutely thrilled, so swept up in it that they begin talking out loud. “Did he mean to do that?”, the child behind me asks a parent as Cottereau drops the imaginary ball he is kicking. Another child is brought up on stage to kick around a make-believe football, and his excitement at being up there is infectious; the audience mood is gleeful among adults and children alike.
There is more audience participation, but it all involves grown-ups; a good move, but very slightly less lovely than the one with the child. There is a touching love story as Cottereau attempts to charm a young woman from the audience, taking her out dancing and looking bashful as he attempts to kiss her; the task of shooting a sick dog is given to another audience member, who is sent away in disgrace after her callous action. There is a bigger storyline involving two adult audience members, which goes on perhaps a little long, but which is still largely entertaining. Even the scary bits are charming.
The best part comes when Cottereau, after a nightmarish scene trying to escape sinuous, hissing creatures, decides he has had enough, gives an audience member his hat, pushes him on stage, and sits down in his seat. He then directs him in his very own sweeping act, to everyone’s amusement.
Cottereau plays like a delightful child, immersing his audience entirely in his world of joyful imagination. I have rarely ever been so thoroughly delighted by a show. If you want to see something that will leave you with an enormous smile on your face and laughter in your heart – in fact, I have a grin on my face just writing this review – Julien Cottereau is the one for you.