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  • Helen Gramotnev


Rhum + Clay’s production of Mistero Buffo may be based on historical Biblical stories, but it is entirely relevant to today’s audiences. This iconic play by Italian playwright Dario Fo (1969) is brought to life by Julian Spooner – an extraordinary performer, who brings the many, many characters to life with ease, grace and magnetism.

Superb clowning skills and physical theatre at its finest! Julian Spooner’s portrayals are genuine, completely committed, and filling the stage with only himself so brilliantly that it is easy to forget that you are watching just one man. Opening the show with “sorry I’m late” breaks the ice and gets the audience on the journey with this incredible performer from the first lines. After all he is a simple Deliveroo driver, a storyteller, a “jongleur” who is just an ordinary man, witnessing some extraordinary things.

A good production will combine all shades of human experience. After all, that is what happens in real life. The Biblical stories in Mistero Buffo are told with a taste for our contemporary existence, and they feel poignant and real every minute of the performance. Social inequalities, senseless violence, dealing with loss and grief, and personal sacrifice are some of the serious and current issues that the play deals with on the backdrop of physical comedy and humour. It is dark humour, but that is the best way to present a resurrection of the decomposing body of Lazarus as a contemporary rock star concert.

The play raises questions about the traditional interpretations of Biblical stories. Is it really black and white, or is it a bit more complicated? Maybe there are as many versions as there are listeners and storytellers. Who is right and who is mad? The man on the cross, or those who kill in his name even after he makes his sacrifice for the salvation of mankind? Spooner begins the story by tripping on the root of an orange tree. Maybe it is his “forbidden fruit” from Adam and Eve’s paradise, which symbolizes his exile into the harshness of the real world. But then again, maybe we are comparing apples to oranges. You be the judge.

Mistero Buffo is playing at Metro Arts until 17 September 2022 during the Brisbane Festival.


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