By the Seat of Your Pants, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Plutot La Vie
Magdalena Schamberger (director), Ed Littlewood (producer), Iain Halket (design), Yvonne Buskie (production manager), Laura Hawkins (lighting design), Lorraine O'Sullivan (production assistant)
Ian Cameron, Tim Licata & Calum MacAskill (performers), Neyrie Ashworth (clarinet), Andrew Cruickshank (double bass), Karen McIver (piano), Chris Thomson (recorded and engineered music)
Running time

Plutôt la Vie is a Scottish touring theatre company, founded in 2003 by Tim Lacata and Ian Cameron. Both have trained with such clowning greats as Pierre Byland and Philippe Gaulier, who share the belief that acting is, ‘a child’s game played with great pleasure and dexterity that forms a rapport with the audience by speaking to their imagination.’

That rather neatly sums up the experience of watching By The Seat Of Your Pants, performed by Tim and Ian and a third young man, Calum MacAskill. On a starkly simple set of a square wooden floor and a very small white chair implausibly perched on top of a tall black pole, these three masters of physical theatre kept both adults and children amused and entertained.

Wooden chairs, varying in height, colour, design and state of repair, were the focus of this cleverly crafted piece. With a pre-recorded sound track incorporating music and silence, this was reminiscent in style of some of the early silent movies, and in the action Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy could be glimpsed.

There was a wittily choreographed musical chair game with a twist: there were three people and three chairs, but two were glossily-painted, white chairs like the one up on high and the other was just plain wood. Just like watching children playing this at a party, one of the three desperately didn’t want to end up on the plain chair, and dawdled and loitered in front of the white chairs, dashing round the back when forced to move on, only to fail every time.

Intermittently, church-like organ music would fill the room and the three, each inexplicably holding a chair out in front of them, would slowly pace in front of the loftily-situated, clean white chair, bowing down in reverence before it. This was not acrobatic, fast-moving physical theatre, but was beautiful and surprising and had a simple charm: its warmth didn’t blow you away but was more of a creeping heat that left you wanting more.

Performed - as this was - considerately and with great skill, this is an art form that is ideal for children’s theatre as it allows children and adults to share in the experience together without dumbing-down, patronising or excluding. This is a very pure entertainment experience that transcends any and all barriers to understanding, so that no matter one’s age, understanding of language or one’s ability more generally, this will not fail to engage.

Part of the Imaginate Festival