Review: MISTERO BUFFO ****


Underbelly Cowgate Venue 61

August 3rd to 26th Not 13

**** (Four Stars)

This is a virtuoso performance by Julian Spooner who enters with a large bag on his back which we will all recognize as a Deliveroo bag. He is part of the zero hours economy. He is also a jongleur and a creator of magic.

He proceeds to tell us the story of the tree he planted, and of the land he created for himself and his family, of his suicidal moment and his then visit from Jesus .Christ He then retells the stories of the miracles from the New Testament. All of his miracle stories are hugely entertaining if not hilarious, especially, strangely, the raising of Lazarus.

Julian Spooner presents us with a wide range of characters, moving from one to another in seconds, and presenting all the kinds of avarice, grumbling and attention-seeking we would expect from a contemporary crowd at each event.

Eventually we come to the crucifixion, performed with enormous gusto and enthusiasm, and the jongleur’s attempt to save Christ – a rich irony.

As someone who previously knew the work of the writer Dario Fo from his famous Accidental Death of an Anarchist the central religious theme of this show was something of a surprise, but the socialist themes of his other work come through here – the oppression by the Lord of the Valley early on, and the uniting of the people against him. However, later the social messages of the gospel are second to the wild and wonderful stories of miracles.

The translation used here is by Ed Emery and the director is Nicholas Pitt, but the magic creator is, of course, Julian Spooner. The stage is his territory, and he inhabits every inch of it, creating a central character we all root for and a multitude of others that we delight in. This is a quite stunning one-man performance, and a splendid night out, with messages about magic and the human imagination even for an old atheist like me. Julian Spooner presents with much intensity the sheer joy of being alive.

Tony Challis