I first saw him in Italy at the Castel Dei Mondi Festival where, after a day of kitchen sink dramas in Italian, his fun and profound clown show, The Art of Dying, was refreshingly comprehensible.
At the start of this one, The Letter, which has been performed over 1400 times, in over 40 countries, he has a go at speaking multiple languages – German, French, English – and then settles, once again, on the universal one of clowning.
This is a deceptively simple piece in which Nani, through great skill wrapped in effortless understatement, carries out the same simple sequence – drinking some wine, writing a letter, sealing and sending it – in numerous different ways.
It’s not an obvious concept for an hour-long show, and things feel inevitably episodic in places.
However, Nani has an incredible repertoire of comic skills, through which, for the most part, he’s able to create endlessly surprising and funny reinterpretations of everyday tasks by framing them in different contexts – ‘a silent film’, ‘without hands’, ‘back to front’, ‘dreams’ and, in a deliciously meta piece, ‘circus’.
Small achievements become bigger when focussed on with this level of detail, his bombastic exclamations of “wow” sweeping the audience along. Even a baby’s laughing.
Silly rather than subversive, this is an unashamedly mainstream clowning show, but one that has a lot of warmth and charm.
The relationship between Nani and the audience is what the piece is really about, as well as the satisfaction we get from watching him conquer the challenges he sets himself.
Indeed, at the end, he struggles to leave the stage, carrying out extra little scenes before taking his final bow. It’s great to see him, here at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time.
Until 25 August. Tomorrow 5:30pm
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