Why can’t all theatre be this good? It’s not often you get to see a clever idea turned into a riotous show that changes the way you see the see the world forever. La Patogallina even made it look easy. Lesser artistic collectives must hate them.
At first glance, Frikchou (Freakshow) was exactly that; a carnival side-show collection of human oddities that included a hunchback, a simpleton, a woman with 4 legs and a man with none. However, Santiago-based La Patogallina turned this idea on its head, and the crowd quickly worked out that the so called human monstrosities hustling them into their seats were simply the circus staff. In this big top, the only thing shown to be grotesque was the absurdity of ‘normal’ life.
Presented in 9 fast-paced circus acts that took in birth, death and everything in between, very little escaped the satirical, critical eye of La Patogallina. All the fun of the fair was here along with a live band and a heavy dose of irony.
Clowns dressed as Ronald McDonald lampooned the Chilean obsession with fast food, encouraging a smiling young girl to gorge her way into obesity by presenting her with toys if she ate more burgers. The Pope was presented as a lecherous illusionist who raised the dead for money or sexual favours and the idiotic banality of public TV was represented by the wiggling lycra-clad buttocks of a dance troupe.
Not surprisingly, Chilean education took a battering. The ring-master cracked his whip at 3 skimpily dressed schoolgirls who performed tricks for treats like obedient dogs. They chanted historical facts and figures without question and jumped through hoops of fire, all in the hope of obtaining a diploma which only one girl could win. Those that didn’t were left to clean the stage.
La Patogallina left no stone unturned in parodying the eccentricities of daily life. Even in the interval they gently poked fun at Santiago shopping habits, as circus owner Madame Bavaroa and her family emerged from the wings to sell drinks and snacks from carrier bags, cool boxes and trolleys.
Not all the acts worked so well. It was hard to see the point they were making with their portrayal of retirement or a knife-throwing act involving a leather-clad vixon but their shadow puppet show depicting the evolution of man was a triumph. Modern man emerged as a frenzied fool struggling to balance all his worldy goods aloft until he was finally squished by a giant credit card; the anti-capitalist message summed up succinctly in a heartbeat.
Overall this was a splendid piece of raw theatre and ensemble acting that left the audience dazzled and questioning as they made their way home in the normal world.