‘Mistero Buffo’ was wayfaring.
Delivery drivers are people many of us encounter; essential to lazy nights in, pizza parties and so much more. But could they be the messengers of some of life’s most important lessons?
‘Mistero Buffo’ (translating to funny mystery) presented by Metro Arts for the Brisbane Festival, asks this exact question. Blending traditional parable stories from the Bible, with modern storytelling forms and a Deliveroo jacket, the production was a comic and inviting spectacle with a poignant beating heart beneath its surface.
This new production is produced by Rhum and Clay, a UK-based company headed by Julian Spooner who served as the sole performer of ‘Mistero Buffo’ alongside Matt Wells, an Australian actor and movement teacher. Directed by Nicholas Pitt, ‘Mistero Buffo’ takes a step into the absurd to explore the role of the storyteller across the ages. It defies the expectations of what one might think they are in for when the marketing for the show is splashed with images of a man dressed as a delivery driver. But ‘Mistero Buffo’ provides something entirely more satiating. Based on Dario Fo’s series of monologues about the life of Jesus Christ, ‘Mistero Buffo’ is adapted by Ed Emery into a brilliant piece of contemporary theatre that moulds a classic text into a post-COVID call to arms, empowering the disenfranchised.
The stage was bare and costumes were minimal, which served the show’s form immensely and left Julian Spooner to carry the story with his performance. Spooner’s performance style was a blend of clowning and biting British satire. The choreography of the piece is incredibly clean and almost magical in parts. Spooner was energetic, heartfelt and quick-witted, making for a performance that you could not take your eyes off.
Lighting design by Geoff Hense and sound design by Jonathan Ouin served as a masterful second and third character, often becoming chameleon-like with story elements that transformed the location and mood of the piece. This was in fantastic synchronisation with Spooner’s movement and physical metamorphoses.
Despite this, some of the Biblical imagery got lost in the fast-paced mode of storytelling, and the script itself, at times, left a lot to the imagination as it was filled with symbolism and metaphor that at points, was not conveyed as clearly as it could have been. This being said, the response to the piece was one of reflection on all that unfolded onstage and the satisfaction provided by the story’s incredibly compelling emotional arcs.
‘Mistero Buffo’ left audiences with ample food for thought, and provocation to the question of how we can continue to face the global cost of living crisis with our art, all while liberating those who exist on the margins of society.
‘Mistero Buffo’ performs until Saturday, 17 September 2022 at Metro Arts. For more information, visit Rhum and Clay’s website.
Photo Credit Luke Forsythe