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A CurtainUp London London Review
Arturo Brachetti Change

The reality that we imagine makes us happier.— Federico Fellini
Arturo Brachetti
Arturo Brchetti as Britannia
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Arturo Brachetti is very well known in his native Italy but the death of variety in Britain in the mid twentieth century has deprived us of acts like this. Brachetti is principally a quick change artist, someone who onstage can create a dozen characters in a moment with a change of costume that amazes us.

In his opening number, a tribute to London, we see Brachetti in the mask and coat and red scarf of The Phantom of the Opera. In a symbolic opener he removes mask after mask, after mask. He'll walk behind a screen and seconds later emerge as a Busby hatted guardsman; a flash and he's a fully kitted out aggressive looking punk with Mohican hair and safety pins pulling an endless string of gum from his mouth. There's some smoke and the Queen of England is waving at us. He appears in a black suit and to the Cockney music hall song of "Lambeth Walk." His suit suddenly gains white buttons all over it like a Pearly King or queen and in turn he becomes a bowler hatted city gent, but with a red bra. Finally in this sequence he emerges as a fully dressed Britannia to a parade of fireworks.

Standouts in Brachetti's quick change artistry: His James Bond switching from black to white tuxedo while he is onstage and we have no idea how it is done . . . the Hollywood sequence in the second act with Judy Garlard in The Wizard of Oz becoming in seconds her daughter Lisa Minelli in Cabaret and where he is dressed half as Bergman and half as Bogart in Casablanca.

Unfortunately the quick change acts are strung together with an artificial narrative where Bracchetti dressed as his older self switches to his younger persona and sets off on a world tour. This linking narrative has writer and director Sean Foley's own particular brand of nonsense on it and it is a shame that it detracts from Brachetti's excellent quick change routines.

The Federico Fellini section will not make any sense to any but film buffs and children in the audience may be upset at Harry Potter's owl being shot down.

Although Brachetti with his cheekily boyish grin is an excellent clown this show does not have the emotional content which made Slava's Snow Show such an international success. The recorded music helps keep up the pace with its strong cues for the costume sections so we can instantly recognise the film stars. There is a sequence, a tribute to painters like Monet, Magritte and Van Gogh where Brachetti wears extravagant outfits adorned with sunflowers or waterlilies.

The interaction of live stage act with a screened video so that people appear to walk out onstage from the film clip has been seen often now. The shadow hand action of birds, ducks and rabbits is really old hat and not what you expect to pay West End prices for. The finale has Brachetti in a will o' the wisp spin and disappearing. Far better to see him in a night club setting where his jaw dropping costume changes will delight and surprise.

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Arturo Brachetti Change
Written and directed by Sean Foley

Starring: Arturo Brachetti
Original Concept: Sean Denoncourt
Director of Creation: Guiy Lévesque
Costume Designer: François Barbeau
Wardrobe Master: Massimo Sarzi Amade
Set Designer: Guillaume Lord
Lighting: Alain Lortie
Sound: Larsen Lupin
Video Design: Productions Ciné-Scène
Running time: One Hour 40 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 412 4662
Booking to 3rd January 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 26th October 2009 performance at the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2 (Tube: Charing Cross)

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