Review: Sorry! by the Footsbarn Theatre, at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
The circus has come to the campus in Coventry, with the self-styled “infamous” Footsbarn Theatre Company creating a festive scene with its tents and trucks sprawling across the parkland.
Straight away there is a flavour of another age of travelling spectacles, and in one important respect this show differs from what we have become used to think of as so-called modern circus: it very definitely features live animals.
Formed in Cornwall in 1971, but based in France since 1991, Footsbarn is best known for its idiosyncratic productions of Shakespeare and other classics, but for this show it has collaborated with Pierre Byland and Cirque Werdyn, a gypsy horse circus.
We are treated to the rare spectacle of several horses being ridden at a gallop around a tight sawdust-strewn circle, with a woman juggling knives on horseback at one point.
Throw in (literally) a large black hen, a miniature pony and a cat (not really an ensemble player) and Sorry deploys quite a menagerie in pursuit of its surreal, Gothic vision.
It begins with two slightly decrepit Lloyd-George lookalikes unfreezing themselves with the aid of a shot of strong spirits.
At first it seems the show will struggle to build momentum because of its pedantic format, with each line delivered alternately in French and English.
The Godot-like duo are here to preside at the funeral of the great composer, Theodore, with the assistance of a creepy undertaker.
A quartet of musicians assembles to take part in the ceremony, but proceedings are interrupted by a series of odd intrusions, including a rustic couple on a tractor who want to celebrate a wedding.
Eventually the space is divided into two, with wedding and funeral taking part simultaneously.
And so it goes on, piling on spectacle and knockabout clowning to bizarre, but not particularly comic, effect and with little dramatic coherence.
In fact, there is a remarkable mismatch between the physical effort required to stage this show and the artistic results it achieves.
It’s unlikely that you will ever have seen anything quite like it before, but sadly it is a disappointing demonstration that being original is no guarantee of being memorable.