BWW Review: BUFFOON Laughs Through Bared Teeth at Tarragon Theatre
In the world premiere of Anosh Irani's BUFFOON, at Tarragon Theatre, Anand Rajaram plays Felix the clown, a child of the thrilling, vicious world of the circus. On a bare gray stage with nothing but a chair for company, Felix tells his life's story, beginning with his frightening birth, through the first book he read (Moby Dick), his first kiss ("That's the tree trunk, Felix") and many, many moments of loss.
Rajaram has decades of experience as a comedic actor, and it shows. With a subtle gesture and change in accent he transforms: a Russian trapezist, an Afghan dope dealer, a girl (the last one may be the least developed character). Rajaram is an exceptional conjurer, filling an empty stage with the noise and magic of a traveling circus. He is, moreover, an indefatigable performer, leaping and trapezing until the show's final moment of stillness.
But despite its energy, BUFFOON is a dark show, a story of broken pieces and faded dreams. Felix is a clown by circumstance, an actor trapped in a tragicomic role. Playwright Irani populates his play with melancholy figures, sometimes, it feels, racing through the good moments so he can get to the maudlin parts: a child smoking opium, a quadraplegic foaming at the mouth, the massacre of an entire family.
As a result of BUFFOON's ever-present dark shadow, there isn't a lot of room for emotional movement. Rajaram bursts like a dynamo, but Felix sits permanently in the same seat of anguish, waiting for the next family tragedy or painful life lesson. By the play's half-way point, the mood is too heavy for Felix's jokes to take off, and his charm is almost undetectable behind his sadness.
Despite its fairly singular tone, BUFFOON is full of powerful moments and rich metaphor. Irani and Rajaram, together with director Richard Rose, have created a universe and populated it with talented monsters performing acts of vicious kindness. It is not a universe I would care to visit again, but it is one I am glad to have witnessed.
BUFFOON runs through 15 December at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto.
For more information or to buy tickets, click here.
Photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann