Smitten by an armless, legless doll our hero Hans is drawn on a quest when she mysteriously disappears—a quest that in best traditions sees Hans encountering a string of bizarre characters and reliving such critical turning points in his life as the sudden death of his pet sheep (‘Roy! [sob, sob] Royyyy!’). This is the basic frame for a show that combines pratting, clowning and punk anarchy with jokes about long German words and buggery. Le Navet Bệte are five clowns, who, according to their press release, are influenced by Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier—neither of whom seem particularly present in a work that gives wilful free reign to its worst (scatological) comic impulses, presenting uncut the filmy flow of its surface thinking without regard for whatever might lie beneath.
It’s absolutely not my cup of tea, and I didn’t find it funny, mostly, but I did sort of like it, or Hans anyway, who had poise, good timing and presence, and, in a way, dignity. Certainly he pulled off wearing tights and no trousers with real aplomb, and to me that’s the most engaging and sympathetic clown: the one who retains (or tries to retain) integrity in the midst of chaos. Hans has, too, a very handsome, vintage toy car that is propelled at a stately pace by furious pedalling—as good an analogy as any for Zemblanity, an energetic performance with minimal effect.