by: Michael De
cast: Andy McQuade,
Iaione Perez, Shaban Arifi, Corin Rhyse Jones
design: Nika Khitrova
Production information can
change over the run of the show.
De Ghelderode's mainly pre-war plays draw on Antonin Artaud's Theatre of
Cruelty and Pieter Brueghel's paintings to create dark, macabre dramas in
which troubled characters wrestle with death and degradation.
Set in medieval Spain,
School for Buffoons opens with a chain gang of masked, deformed figures
being whipped in the presence of their master, Folial (Andy McQuade). He
wishes to teach them how to survive everyday cruelty while they secretly
plot to overthrow him and steal the secret of his art, which keeps them
The overall effect is of Prospero in a madhouse of
Calibans. Director Victor Sobchak brings his Russian background to the
themes of mental and physical confinement that made the play popular in
communist Europe and
uses haunting music alongside Nika Khitrova's dimly-lit set - lamps,
shadows, velvet drapes - to create the atmosphere of an expressionist film.
The cast also use body and eye movements, dance and mime
to overcome the inadequacy of language alone to express terror and fear.
Marcel Stoetzler's lanky, distorted form as the buffoon Buffry is
In line with Artaud's theories, cruelty eventually
revitalises Folial but Sobchak realises this 60-year-old play is unlikely
to have the same effect on an audience in the age of Sarah Kane. So he
emphasises instead the lack of love and hope in these grotesque lives - and
uses a wonderfully vulnerable mime from McQuade to suggest that art may not
be able to transform such lives but can at least express the terrible
poignacy of their position.