BWW Review: NAPOLEON DISROBED, Arcola Theatre
Told By An Idiot have been creating the unexpected for 25 years, and with this offering they provide a comedic, alternative historical take on one of France's most formidable leaders. Based on Simon Leys' novel The Death of Napoleon, this page to stage interpretation features copious amounts of humour that consistently entertains.
The performances may be all over the place, but the intention is incredibly precise and the comedy lands in heaps. There's a lot of enjoyment buzzing from the audience and it helps fuel the action on stage. So many share a genuine enjoyment for the work, and this passion radiates.
Ayesha Antoine and Paul Hunter share great chemistry and their connection magnetises the audience, pulling them in to the crazy world. Whilst Hunter remains as the one character, Antoine impresses by playing numerous. She offers a range of accents, physicality's and demonstrates a large scope of performative skill.
Hunter is a seasoned pro and is totally relaxed throughout the 70-minute story. He responds so well to the energy in the room, cracking jokes and offering many moments of slapstick that leave you howling with laughter. Hunter has edited some of the text so that it relates to Dalston specifically, which is an added highlight.
However, for all its charm the production lacks a cohesive narrative, and at times you wonder where you are being led. It's daring in form, but this bravery means that for some people a basic through line could be missed. This isn't a problem for me as I enjoy a bit of organised chaos, but others seem to need something more concrete to latch onto.
In its most basic form this piece is lots of fun, and has all the components needed to create an enjoyable and memorable night out. It unconventionally strips back history, revealing a side of it that most of us might not know of, or necessarily believe. There's a real sense of curiosity throughout and it's this daring approach that has made Told By An Idiot one of the leading theatre companies currently making work.
Napoleon Disrobed at the Arcola Theatre until 10 March
Photo credit: Manuel Harla