The Zanniskinheads and the Quest for the Holy Balls Review
This show brings together an international collaboration between ArscomicA, 'O Pernacchio and UK producers Slingshot to provide a modern take on the Italian Renaissance Commedia dell'Arte – a theatre form characterised by masked stock protagonists, the servant Zanni characters, improvised action, the use of actual slap sticks (battachio) and scatological humour.
So far, so theory but how does all this translate into a Fringe show?
Meet Peenut and Ribbòn, a pair of masked yobs on a mission, pulled this way and that by their vecchio antagonist, the unseen Little Grandfather who directs their quest for the missing Holy Balls. Tradition would require one of the characters to be clever and witty but against type, both the Zanniskinheads appear to be numskulls – a role they seem to relish. In a Franglais mix, they abuse each other and take off on a globe trotting tour of destruction.
Part of the form is that one event leads to another. For the audience the experience is rather like watching two somewhat delinquent children playing and fantasising as they go, each bidding to out-do the other – “And then we go in the Channel Tunnel, but then we open a door and all the water rushes in and then we fart so much that we can fly and we go to the moon and then…”. No, wait a minute, that’s no juvenile whimsy that really is the plot.
While a number of the elements of the time-honoured structure are present in a worked-over modern form, the comic stage business (the lazzi of tradition) isn’t sufficient to carry the loose script or the unsophisticated dialogue.
At its best, it does approach almost cartoon like levels of slapstick but for the main, it’s brash, uncomplicated stuff. While it hopefully is intended to pick on the customs and frailties of our times, holding up a mirror to casual violence, homophobia and xenophobia it too often seems to revel in them. Given the production’s pedigree, for the fanatico of the art form, it might be a treat or a master class, but for the general theatre-goer it is likely to be a quest too far.
Show times: 4-28 (except 15) August 2011 8.05pm
Ticket prices: £9.50 (£8.50) - £10.50 (£9.50)