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Arturo Brachetti – Change review at Garrick London

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Italy’s Arturo Brachetti is acknowledged as the world’s greatest exponent of quick-change, the art that originated in the commedia dell’ arte in the 17th century. Since 1979, when he gave up his plan to become a priest and took his fledgling act – with just six costumes – to Paris, he has been keeping the practice alive.

Quick-change is sometimes seen in circus or magic shows as a lighting-fast flurry of different costumes – and that’s it. But Brachetti is more of a quick-change actor, bringing theatre and magic into his award-winning productions. And, man, can he change quickly.

For this new show, having its world premiere at the Garrick, writer/director Sean Foley has drawn on Brachetti’s vast repertoire of characters. A story of an older version of Brachetti interacting with his younger self unfolds as he reminisces about his life. And this is where things go awry. Brachetti is badly let down by the script, which clunks from one segment to the next. His quick-change, tricks, illusions and shadow-play – performed in and around Guillaume Lord’s massive revolving packing case that opens up into a variety of configurations – could surely stand alone.

The Hollywood section is the best, with characters morphing from Nosferatu to Gene Kelly, Casablanca’s Bogart and Bergman to King Kong and, most effectively, Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz to Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. But this is followed by references to Fellini films that family audiences would struggle to recognise.

A final transformation that sees Brachetti dying and ascending skywards is ridiculous, but he saves the best for last, when his tail suit changes instantaneously from black to white under the traditional shower of glitter. If only he had stuck to what he does best – change, not chat – the result could have been triumphant instead of trying.

Production Information

Garrick, London, October 19-January 3, 2010

Sean Foley, who also directs
Arturo Brachetti, who also produces
Running time
1hr 45mins

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