La Tragédie Comique, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Plutôt La Vie
Yves Hunstad and Éve Bonfanti (writers), Tim Licata (translator), Ian Cameron (director),Dani Rae (producer), Iain Halket (designer), Laura Hawkins (lighting designer),Melanie Jordan (assistant director), Douglas Robertson (photo)
Tim Licata (Character and Actor)
Running time

The play stripped bare by its characters.

First performed in 1988, La Tragédie Comique has been seen throughout the world for over 20 years. This production is the UK premiere of the French play’s translation into English.

On the set that is reminiscent of either a large puppet theatre or a small music hall, a sumptuous red velvet curtain hangs at the back of the stage and shell footlights front it. The show’s title sits on a lectern at the side of the stage. From behind the curtain, the Character (Tim Licata) appears wearing a false nose and dressed in cream Turkish trousers and top, soft shoes with and a dark blue silky sash round his middle. He instantly breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience as to when the play will begin and issuing instructions to Laura, the lighting expert.

In this playful and philosophical piece that weaves through fantasy and forms of reality we are given the concept of a character having a life of its own and who needs an actor to bring him to life, a complete subversion of the conventional idea of an actor breathing life in to a character. In La Tragédie Comique, the Character takes control of his own destiny and seeks his own Actor to perform him. The Actor is found as a baby and the Character watches him as a kind of Guardian Angel willing him towards his desired fate.

The playful power struggle between the Actor and the Character is brilliantly exposed in fine self -referential labyrinthine style by Licata and the comic piece is the perfect vehicle for his bouffonesque art. It is crazy, surreal, fantastical and a bit manic as a world of characters is expressed through this one man’s skills. With only a wooden nose to differentiate between one and another, it is easy to pose the question as to who is who, and that is the play’s mischief.

We are entertained, amused and confounded and never allowed to forget the power of imagination nor that the real world matters. The message that we all have but a short time in the light is strong as are affirming views like ‘no one is ever finished with love’, ‘never be afraid to love’ and ‘The pages to come will be better than those past’.

Licata’s clowning craft is extraordinary; a testament to his training in Paris with Philippe Gaulier from the famous Lecoq Physical Theatre School, but a shorter version of this flight of theatrical fancy would have turned it into a real gem.

Tour continues

6/7th June, 7pm (2.30pm Saturday 7 June) – Traverse Edinburgh
10th June, 7pm – Eden Court Inverness
11th June, 7.30pm – Mill Theatre Thurso
13th June, 7.30pm – Eastgate Theatre Peebles
15th June, 1.30pm – Adam Smith Kirkcaldy