The funny men get tragic. And funny.

May 19 2014 | By More

English language premiere of French classic

By Thom Dibdin

Innovative Edinburgh-based theatre company Plutot la Vie go out on tour this week, with the English language premiere of La Tragedie Comique.

Tim Licata in La Tragedie Comique. Photo © Plutot la Vie

Tim Licata in La Tragedie Comique. Photo © Plutot la Vie

Something of a French modern classic, the one-person show has been a hit all round the world for its writers, Yves Hunstad and Eve Bonfanti. Now Edinburgh audiences can see it when it arrives at the Traverse on June 6 and 7 for three performances.

La Tragedie Comique is an abstract piece about a Character who is waiting for his Actor to come along and perform his story. The Character finds his Actor as a baby and watches the Actor grow. Will the Actor accept or eschew his fate: of performing the Character’s story?

It is a play about the idea of what it is to be on stage, about the nature of fiction and reality. And as the stage is somehow a metaphor for life, it also about the fear of being yourself – and gaining the confidence not to be afraid to show off the authentic person you are.

Co-founder of Plutot la Vie, Tim Licata, first saw La Tragedie Comique in 1988 when he was training in Paris. He has now translated it and performs in the new production, directed by co-founder Ian Cameron.

Here the two, who are more used to acting together under an external directorship, discuss the new production with Miriam Attwood.

Why is La Tragedie Comique special for Plutot la Vie?

Ian: “It is a play that beautifully reflects the company’s exploration of theatre clowning, and physical/visual theatre in general which we have drawn on for all our productions, and pushes the boundaries of what we have done so far. It is a challenge! It is also a good touring show, which will appeal to a wide audience.”

Tim: “La Tragedie Comique is special for us because, while involving our specialities of Theatre Clown and Buffoonery, it is simple a story of a young man, scared of the world, finding the confidence to step into Life and into the risks of Love.

“We use a very small mask, a nose. An echo of the theatre clown’s red nose, ‘…the smallest mask in the world.’ Our nose is different, but an echo of that…”

Tim Licata in La Tragedie Comique. Photo © Plutot la Vie

Tim Licata in La Tragedie Comique. Photo © Plutot la Vie

Audiences know Plutot la Vie for its highly physical, engaging, kids’ shows – how is this different?

Tim: “Plutot la Vie has introduced two generations of young people to theatre with A Clean Sweep and By the Seat of Your Pants. Those children are now in their teens. La Tragedie Comique is a coming of age story that speaks to an older audience of those children and their families.”

Ian: “Absolutely, as a piece of theatrical storytelling it has a greater range of ideas and emotions than some of our other productions have had, with a more complex structure, and so will have a more adult – and family- appeal.

What’s it like to be in the room working as director and actor rather than both performing together?

Tim: “It’s a huge pleasure for me right now. Ian has a huge wealth of experience of movement, physical theatre and visual art. He understands how to ‘fill’ words up with physicality. He’s an excellent director and is putting me through my paces as an actor. Very challenging! And feels great.”

Ian: “We have not worked like this before, but because of our similar theatrical experiences and training, it has meant that there has been a recognised shorthand in the development of the show, and so it has made the process quicker and without having to explain too much. There has been a lot of fun in the making of it.”

Tim – you first saw this show during your time training with Philippe Gaulier of Le Coq fame. Why has it stuck with you these past two decades?

Tim: It’s a play about the imagination, the nature of play and creativity and how these things are essential parts of our human nature. Party of my training with Philippe Gaulier, Pierre Byland and others was about the importance of being ‘playful’. The secret being that, through ‘play’, unexpected honesty and truth comes out… This impressed me about the play many years ago and stuck with me.”

Ian – when Tim suggested Plutot la Vie take on a show that has had such success round the world, but never been translated to English, what did you think?

Ian: “My first thought was that I hoped it would be a good translation! And I think it is. I also hoped that the words would not rule too much, and they don’t. I hoped that we could do it justice, but that is for the audiences to decide.”

What can audiences expect? Is it fair to say this is kind of storytelling we don’t see often on stage on tour?

Tim: “It’s a combination of Clown, Bouffon, play, imagination, beautiful text and a beautiful, funny, moving story. As usual with Plutot la Vie, the audience is a very important, and present, part of the story.”

Ian: “Full of fun and theatrical surprises – even though it is just one actor on stage, the audience will be kept on their toes throughout. There is not much like it going on in Scotland.”

Le Tragedie Comique opens at the Howden Park Centre on Friday and tours until the end of June, calling at the Traverse on Friday and Saturday, 6 and 7 June.

Plotot la Vie website:

La Tragédie Comique on tour:

Fri 23 May 2pm Livingston
Howden Park Centre
01506 777666 Book online
Sun 25 May Tobermory
Mull Theatre, Druimfin
01688 302211 Book online
Fri 6 – Sat 7 June Edinburgh
Traverse Theatre
0131 228 1404 Book online
Tue 10 June Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234234 Book online
Wed 11 June Thurso
Mill Theatre
01847 893572 Book online
Fri 13 June Peebles
Eastgate Theatre
01721 725777 Book online
15/6/14 1.30pm Kirkcaldy
Adam Smith Theatre
01592 583302 Book online
Thurs 19 June Craignish
Village Hall
Book online
Sat 21 June Whithorn
Swallow Theatre
01988 850368 Book online
Fri 27 June New Galloway
The CatStrand
01644 420 374 Book online


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