Pss Pss: Why so old-fashioned?

Pss Pss is playing the York Theatre.

Yep, this takes skill. Maybe I’m just greedy. (Photo of Pss Pss by Pipo Gialluisi)

It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s kind of charming. But that’s not enough.

In Pss Pss, Swiss artists Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari play mute clown characters who meet, struggle for possession of an apple, and, through increasingly challenging acrobatics, end up on a trapeze.

It takes too long for things to get going, though, and, even at this show’s high end, the skills aren’t that dazzling.

My diffidence may be part of what I call Cirque du Soleil syndrome: when you’ve been consistently wowed for long enough, if a performer doesn’t manage to set their hair on fire while underwater, it’s hard to work up much excitement. It’s not just Cirque du Soleil, of course. A couple of years ago, the Cultch presented a troupe of thrilling Australian acrobats in a show called A Simple Space—Gravity & Other Myths. I could not stop moaning and screaming through that one. More recently, Cuisine and Confessions, which has the worst title in the world but is also one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, knocked me out with its combination of acrobatic expertise and narrative content.

And, in terms of clowning, we’ve been spoiled by Canadian clowns of horror Mump and Smoot and by characters such as Butt Kapinski who have come through the Fringe.

Not everybody sees as much theatre as I do, of course—okay, nobody does. And the kids who were in the audience at the show I attended were having a good time with the good-natured face-pulling and playfulness of Pss Pss. At some points, I was surrounded by chortling, which was extremely pleasant: going with that flow is kind of like letting yourself get tossed around by warm surf. Pss Pss contains some entertaining audience involvement. And there is some impressive physical work: Fassari climbs a ladder with Pessi standing on his shoulders, for instance.

Still, I wanted more.

Fassari’s baggy pants and Pessi’s explosive pigtails—their overall period trampiness—make it clear that they’re going for an old-fashioned style. So does the boulevard music they perform with Pessi squeezing a concertina and Fassari blowing a trumpet. If that kind of deliberate naiveté is your thing, or if you have little kids who might enjoy this, by all means go for it. But, if you’re looking for adventure, look somewhere else.

PSS PSS Created by Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari. Directed by Louis Spagna. A Compagnia BaccaIà production at York Theatre on Thursday, February 22. Continues until March 4.


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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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