The Klump Company is a new international ensemble hailing from the famous Jacques Leqoc school in Paris. The four actors, two French, two English, have come to the UK with a show about coming to the UK. The Family Blimp is a short but sweet exploration of British village life, and how to navigate it as newcomers.
Through a lot of mime, a few simple set pieces and props, and a mixture of some basic English and French phrases, the members of the Blimp family take us with them on their mission to assimilate in a small town in the British countryside.
Their antagonist is Jocelyn Price, the matriarch of the village, whose welcome is overly friendly with an intimidating after taste. She is never physically present, but portrayed as a voice coming out of a picnic basket. Expecting a full community commitment from the family, she never fails to remind mother Evelyn of the rules when she does not abide by them. Sometimes she seems to represent Evelyn’s own conscience more than anything else.
In their eagerness to fit in, the Blimp family continuously tries to keep up appearances, but underneath this perfect-family pretence, things are far from harmonious. Father Philippe and mother Evelyn have lost their connection, daughter Emily is busy discovering herself, and toddler Dioxin has some straight-up disturbing habits.
The physicality of the actors is a joy to watch. The combination of slapstick, clownish, grotesque and absurd movement works well to tell a story that is light-hearted but with dark undertones. For even though the matter is exaggerated and comic, underneath the humour lies a dysfunctional family that many people will relate to in some way or other, and the difficulty of integrating in such an inherently British setting is in its essence rather sad.
The cast are all great performers, with Megan Vaughan-Thomas stealing the show as the toxic Dioxin. Her facial expressions alone manage to crack up the audience on numerous occasions. Some bits are slightly too long or repetitive, but most scenes are genuinely funny. There are some smooth transitions with a clever use of props, a few nice little musical moments, and a great dance of English gestures and movements, which if anything should go on for longer.
And that goes for the play itself, too. The ending is abrupt and comes too early, both in terms of time and story. 45 minutes in, it just didn’t seem quite over yet. The story could do with a little plot twist or a clearer conclusion, but most importantly, it didn’t seem like the audience had had enough yet – an encore would be appreciated.
After the bows the actors explain the piece is still in development and they work without a director. An achievement. Let’s see some more of the The Klump Company.
The Family Blimp is playing at the Blue Elephant Theatre until 23 June
Photo: The Klump Company