Inventive and riveting fun

2008-12-16 00:00

MICHEL Lauzière is billed as the Master of Unusual Comedy, and when I went to see his show on its press preview night, I was not quite sure what to expect. The posters revealed only a bespectacled, slightly nerdy-looking French Canadian. “A refugee from Cirque du Soleil?” suggested someone.

In fact, Lauzière is one of a kind. The roots of his comedy lie somewhere in the ancient entertainment of clowning, but he is more than a clown. The visual impact of his gags is considerable, but at times I was reminded of the great Danish comedian and musician Victor Borge, some of whose finest moments were verbal, or at least relied on sound rather than sight.

Lauzière comes onto a stage where his props are a chair, some boxes, a trunk, and a peculiar object — a kind of tree constructed out of what can be found in any kitchen. He calls it a “dishophone”, and proceeds to make music from it. In his slightly lisping, French-accented English, he explains that as a child, he wanted to be a musician, but his family could afford neither instruments nor lessons, and so he taught himself, and made his music on whatever came to hand, from turkey basters, nose-droppers, pots and pans to an electric whisk.

Not all his activities are musical. With the help of a volunteer, he does a turn as William Tell, but with a piece of hosepipe/blowpipe rather than a bow and arrow. He gives an explanation of stagecraft, but with his low-key, diffident persona, he breaks most of its rules and continues to hold the attention of his viewers. He tells the audience his life story, demonstrating how he set up a rock ‘n roll band in his teens, with him playing all the “instruments”, and shows how, even though he spoke no English at that stage and the words of the songs were all in English, he managed just fine.

Following the dishophone, a collection of bells and the wonderful spoonophone, he demonstrates his hornophone — an overall festooned with old-fashioned bicycle horns. Once inside it, Lauzière proceeds to play Beethoven, Boccherini, Vivaldi and Mozart by moving his body. And his final act (which involves a balloon) is one that has to be seen to be believed — I don’t intend to spoil it.

Among the audience when I watched Lauzière was Ellis Pearson. He was enchanted. Praise from one master of clowning and comedy for another is praise indeed — and deserved praise at that. This is great entertainment of a genuinely unusual kind.

Margaret von Klemperer

• Michael Lauzière is at the iZulu Theatre until January 11. Booking is at Computicket.

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