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Let's get physical

REVIEW: The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much (Swan Theatre, Worcester).

THIS production is indeed a tempting of the senses, a delicious smorgasbord of delights groaning with delicacies, every one of which tickles the taste buds.

The plot to what soon becomes a helter-skelter ride through a collection of varying genres revolves around a Frenchman in 1960s New York who manages to escape an explosion, thanks to the intervention of Fate.

There then follows a frantic seat-of-your-pants chase around the world as our monsieur decides that his would-be assassins shouldn’t be let off the hook quite so easily.

The narrative is defined through a combination of speech and mime, each complimenting the other, which provides just the right blend of dialogue and visual pyrotechnics.

At this stage, perhaps a few introductions are in order. Voloz Collective is a hugely talented group of young Lecoq-trained actors, which is a recommendation in itself.

An award-winning international physical theatre company that reinvents and recharges physical comedy, Voloz exploits the capacities of the human body and blurs the lines between the theatrical and cinematic.

The company’s training ground Lecoq is, among many other things, the world’s principal organisation for the teaching of mime and related theatrical skills.

Voloz Collective productions are also accompanied by an evocative selection of live music, which can range from Dollars westerns-style guitar strums to American Songbook numbers, all of which establish or enhance a particular mood.

Hailing from three different countries, the team of four was brought together by two years of study at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq.

Voloz has performed at venues ranging from an organic farm in America’s rural Vermont, to London’s Pleasance Theatre.

Cast member Olivia Zerphy says: “While comedy today is increasingly text-based, we are excited to bring audiences to the roots of vaudevillian physical comedy with Voloz’s own contemporary cinematic twist.

“What draws people so often to film and TV is the speed and ingenuity with which one image transforms into the next. With this show, we transpose this visual dexterity of film into a theatrical language, teasing out moments of both poetry and hilarity.”

On a personal note, the last time I witnessed first class mime in action was in a show devised by the late Mick Wall, also Lecoq trained, and in his heyday, arguably one of Britain’s leading exponents of the art.

This show then was a real treat for me as I once again luxuriated in the endless permutations of human expression that lie within the easy reach of mime.

It also reminded me of the distinctive European street theatre that, down the years, I viewed on many occasions before the dark curtain of Covid came down on so many stages around the globe.

Written and directed by Olivia Zerphy, Emily Wheatman, Paul Lofferon, and Samuel Rayner, The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much is suitable for those aged from six upwards.

Lighting design is by Joe Un

derwood and original composition and live music by Frederick Waxman.

Voloz Collective are currently on tour, Worcester’s Swan Theatre being one in a number of venues at which the group is performing in the coming few weeks.

I firmly recommend that you check them out if they are appearing at a theatre near you. In the meantime, let’s hope that too much water hasn’t flowed underneath the Severn bridge before they make a return trip to Worcester.

Pictured: Voloz Collective… a heady mix of speech and mime.

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