Theatre review: The Letter, Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), Edinburgh

One of the great things about Paolo Nani’s work is that you can enjoy it in any language.

Paolo Nani bridges language barriers by talking in a few and casting them all aside in favour of the universal language of clowning

****

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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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.

Read More

Read More
Read More:

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

For unlimited access to The Scotsman Fringe coverage, subscribe here.