Review: BIGRE

by Lynn on April 18, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs, Toronto, Ont.

Co-written, created and performed at my performance by Pierre Guillois, Agathe L’Huillier and Olivier Martin-Salvan.

Set by Laura Leonard

Costumes by Axel Aust

Lighting by Marie-Helene Pinon and David Carreira

Sound by Roland Auffret and Loic le Cadre

An endlessly inventive wordless, slap-stick  show about the serious subjects of loneliness, making do with small spaces and friendship.

A portly man, a tall, slim man and a tall, willowy blonde woman live side by side by side in Paris in three small attic apartments. They are strangers. The portly man is fastidious, going so far as to hand-vacuum the soles of his shoes after coming in from work. His pristine white appartment is the latest in efficiency. He claps his hands for the lights to come on and off and for the toilet to miraculously appear from a wall. He also sings, “Carousel” by Jacques Brel but in a language that could be gibberish or Japanese,

The tall slim (skinny?) man lives next to the portly man in a cluttered apartment full of stuff. If he puts stuff in his cupboard and closes the door too hard, the stuff shoots out into the portly man’s apartment. This makes for huge opportunities of creating goofy humour. He sleeps in a hammock at night strung above the stuff below. The willowy woman lives on the other side of the slim man, in a neat place decorated in a stereotypically feminine way with frills and pink. Kudos to set designer, Laura Leonard.

Each occupant has caught a glimpse of his/her neighbour and is curious. They all eventually meet. Relationships are formed with one of the men at least being jealous when the other man gets the woman’s favour. Sometimes they all spend time together with the woman giving one of the men a shoulder massage as she reads the instructions from a manual. The relationships shift and change from platonic to romantic, to irritation of the familiar to estrangement and back again, all wordlessly, all totally clear, and very funny.

Certainly much of the humour comes from how the three performers look. A portly man doing complex physical moves is funny because it’s unexpected. The tall skinny man isn’t just slim, he’s almost concave in his posture and his ‘sad sack’ look is endearing but funny. And the willowy blonde is fidgety, anxious and that’s funny too.

The clown action ramps up as the relationships solidify. The woman crawl’s up onto the roof to sunbath, takes off her top and a fierce wind whips it away as it flits and flies just out of her reach. Then a helicopter flies over head…and on and on.

The group takes it’s well earned bow at what we think is the end, but then comes back to do another fifteen minutes of silliness. I couldn’t figure that out at all and think that addition (I can’t call it an encore can I?) should be cut. Confusion and overkill is not a good way to end a basically funny show.

There is no definition of “bigre” I was told by Joël Beddows, the Artistic Director of theatre français de Toronto and one of the producers of the show. It’s just a toss-off word as the Irish might say “Happy-days” meaning nothing.

A Compagnie Le Fils du Grand Réseau Production presented by Canadian Stage in collaboration with theatre français de Toronto.

Began: April 11, 2019.

Closes: April 28, 2019.

Running Time: 85 minutes.

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