Napoleon: A Defence (as part of Off The Peg with Mayfest)

Mon 21st May 2012


Chelsey Stuyt

at 08:19 on 22nd May 2012



“Hello, Welcome aboard the H.M.S. Boat!” Le Navet Bete served up a solid show with some great laughs. Unfortunately, they seemed to have traded any heart they might have had for hilarity. Like putting a frigate in bathwater, it was funny but lacked the depth to really go anywhere.

Performing to a full house, Le Navet Bete began their new show, “Napoleon: A Defence”, with a man dressed in a onesie and a tricorne hat. Major Blunt (Dan Bianchi) set up the action nicely with a frame story for the story (telling it to a delightfully camp tour guide/private (Matt Freeman)). The call and response theme song for the Duke of Wellington, “I say Duke, you say Welly!”, was a particular highlight, as was the surprising firework boom off the back of the prop cannon. But it was Nick Bunt's relentlessly manic energy that kept the thing afloat. I also enjoyed Alex Dunn's 'Sweet William' interlude dance sequences – and the subsequent apologies.

The costumes were perfect. The mix of naval uniform and period undergarments strike precisely the right chord (somewhere near childhood imagination games). The props were fantastic – particularly the wooden horses and the mast. All pieces of equipment had the perfect blend of professionalism with a dash of childlike construction. The music was another highlight and offered the only emotional inroad to the show. Alex Dunn and Nick Bunt may have been physically engaging as clowns, but they were more relatable as musicians. I particularly liked the placement of bright red shoes under their knees, which turned them into dwarfs - the details were fantastic.

However, ultimately the show seemed to lack a certain heart. It lacked depth. I laughed, the audience laughed even harder, but they were cheap laughs. All four actors had an incredible range of physicality and Matt Freeman's over the top performance was truly impressive. However, the plot and the characters didn't give any emotional engagement with the audience. One strength of the clown is their ability to push the audience. This felt like a show geared for children and had too light a touch for a room of drinking adults.

If you're looking for a light-hearted laugh then this is just the ship for you. The show is quick, entertaining, and clever. The facial expressions and lettuce jokes are worth the price of the ticket alone. However, if you're looking for a meatier course, you're out of luck.


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