New Stages

I'm So Big BAC, London
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The Independent Culture
Two simpleton gypsy brothers, the smarmy, medallioned small-time gangster Maximo (Paul Hunter) and the puppy-eyed innocent Fredo (Javier Marzan) are starving. To keep themselves in pizza they capture the feral prostitute, Lovely (Hayley Carmichael, above), chain her up and tout their caravan as "The House of Pleasure". All goes well until the last five minutes when Lovely and Fredo fall for each other and Maximo has a stroke. Buffoonery vies with brutality to render Told By An Idiot Theatre Company's cynically nutty fable by turns hilarious, horrific, poignant and pointless. The result inhabits a curious comic hinterland between reduced-calorie Dario Fo and Benny Hill. Unfortunately an overlong, if deliciously daft, exposition leaves little time for plot, comedy or character to develop beyond the trivial, and an incoherent descent into uncomfortable pseudo-profundity ensues.

Luckily, I'm So Big is saved by Marzan and Carmichael's superlative clowning. Agile and putty-faced, Marzan has the audience in stitches with one appealing blink. Carmichael plays his foil with an altogether bleaker brand of humour. Very like her fellow diminutive Complicite-graduate Kathryn Hunter, she beguiles us with a husky-voiced, tongue-in-cheek tragedy which lends some substance to this featherweight frippery. Worth a look just for these two.

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