La Belle Escabelle is something entirely unexpected. As a change of pace to the rest of the productions, compared to weighty abstractions on heavy and ‘important’ things, it is funny, silly and seemingly meaningless, but exposes the emphasis we place on trust and the necessity of it in relationships.
Two brothers make up the cast, and a host of props are used elegantly and entertainingly in order to keep the audience amused. Nothing is overdone, everything used in moderation and to its fullest effect, in what surely must have been a lengthy process of honing and condensation, to produce an entertaining half an hour of balletic athleticism, ladder Jenga and a sprinkling of water thrown into the audience.
La Belle Escabelle has everything a piece of slapstick comedy could ask for, each act is different and does not rely on the last but moves between them neatly and without repetition. Its strengths rely on laughter being an international language – no words are spoke here, but none need to be, in the case of La Belle Escabelle, if one is laughing and enjoying themselves, then one understands what the performers are trying to convey. Circus tricks with ladders and water bottles not only entertain, but provide a levelling experience across ages, genders and experiences which allow an audience to come together in their enjoyment of the evening.
It is as simple as entertainment without the pressures of meaning, which is why the BE Festival made a sensible choice in their programming, having the audience hit the ground running, then come to a gentle, chortling stop at the end of the evening. There is nothing wrong with going home and having questions in one’s mind about what they have just watched, but to view four serious pieces of theatre in one night may wear out an audience – but by complementing the programme with a lovely, sweet and endearing piece such as this shows an awareness that theatre can be exhausting for not only the performers, but their audiences too.
The BE Festival ran in Birmingham from the 2-6 July 2013. It will return next year. For further information, please visit The Be Festival website.