Review: The Artist at AC Arts

Review By Lia Cocks

A typical artist’s studio. Paint splattered floor. A wooden, ricketty shelf with finished canvas’ tucked away. A window for natural light. A red table with a white chair. A red ladder leans casually against the shelf. We see a pair of yellow socks poking out from underneath the easel, where The Artist himself is hidden behind his canvas, deep within his creative process. So preoccupied that he often dipped his paintbrush in his cup of tea, and drank from his paint water! My eye, and ear, is drawn to a leak in the ceiling. I am a little concerned, as it is very close to the lighting rig, but my concern soon turns to relief as the annoying drip is all but part of the show. There is a chuckle-inducing scene involving the drip, his cup of tea, and a teabag. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination… Thom Monckton is a New Zealand born, Finland based physical theatre artist trained in circus arts at CircoArts in Christchurch and then at the famed mimodynamics school of Jacques LeCoq in Paris. He is clearly a master of all major dramatic territories such as buffoonery, clowning and Commedia dell’arte and has the audience wrapped around his little finger, all without saying a word. An award-winning performer with shows such as his debut full-length solo show ‘Moving Stationery’ in 2012 and his ticket-selling smash hit ‘The Pianist’. Presented by Circo Aereo, a barrier-breaking international contemporary circus group, Monckton brings us ‘The Artist’ - using just his willowy and putty-like body and malleable face he presents to us the creative journey the artist endures; the inspiration, the straying focus, the unkempt studio and the endless development of problems. He has a solution for these problems, but not the kind of logical or obvious solution you would expect! He opts for the most dubious and fatuous resolution, invoking fits of laughter and gasps from the audience who are flabbergasted by what they see! Such incredible nuances and small moments made large by his clumsy, but sweet personality. He had a knack for getting side tracked and each unexpected detour gave way to a series of events utilising his imaginative set and props. There was a moment where a prop bottle actually broke, and as he was barefoot, motioned to the Stage Manager for a time out while they cleaned the stage. At this point, we all still thought this was part of the show, such was his incredible professionalism and his ability to not drop his character. He resumed as though nothing has occurred, and when said bottle needed to be referenced later in the performance, he improvised and made a joke about it, all without uttering a word. Monckton portrayed such a reclusive, awkward and bumbling character but beneath the bespectacled exterior lay a strong, lithe and limber core. Each vista tripped into the next with the fruit bowl scene one of my absolute favourites, and the return of the leaky ceiling! With a little bit of audience participation, we are drawn into the final scene where Monckton unveils yet another skill - live painting - much to the patrons awe. The last magical and whimsical scene will leave you breathless with enthusiasm at his final installation masterpiece. The Artist is an incomparable consummation of the art of mime, circus, and physical theatre. Absolutely transcendent. Don’t miss out.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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