76th Edinburgh Fringe: REVIEW
"O’Dennell and Brückner's use of mime is exceptionally effective in exploring the energy and raw emotion that breathe such electrifying life into Anna and Felix's stories and experiences."
Building Bridges Theatre Company
Come To Our Show
by Cathy Wippell & David Brückner
cthearts.com/Come To Our Show (Please)
August 18, 2023
Directed Apostolos Zografos
Felix, David Brückner, is frustrated that nobody is coming to the once-prestigious Circus König, even if it was only to see the world's smallest elephant. No matter what he comes up with, his heart is reluctant to continue performing with his new partner, Anne Molly Cass O’Donnell. But for Anna, there seems to be no going back, and only by moving forward can she find the place where she truly belongs. As Anna and Felix’s relationship begins to show signs of breaking, a long-overdue conversation about the meaning of home offers them hope.
Come to Our Show (Please) by Cathy Wippell and David Brückner captures something rather salient and thought-provoking that will, both for Britons and Europeans, hit pretty hard. Ever since the UK held its infamous EU Referendum, the idea of home and the strength that home gives us have been somewhat irreparably damaged. By choosing to tell their story against a circus backdrop, Wippell and Brückner really get to the heart of the socio-political situation Felix and Anna, as well as their wider audience, are living through.
No matter where you are from or where you call home, it is impossible not to feel a connection to this play or to Circus König. Every time Felix talks about König, we appreciate the slow, pitiful, and heartbreaking decline of the circus. The circus did (and perhaps still does) hold such a vital place in our shared communities. These are places to be spellbound, for communities to come together, and to discover wonders. With these having declined, so have our notions of community and our sense of home.
When Anna asks Felix to close his eyes and describe what home means to him, she does so out of desperation to try to understand why he’s so eager to leave the circus. What Felix does describe so beautifully captures the essence of home—it’s the spaces, places, smells, feelings, and relationships that hold memories that comfort us. Home is about belonging and being lost in those places that are familiar, friendly, and bring us together. Home is a happiness that can be hard to describe. It is at this point in the play that you really begin to see a clear difference between the characters; it’s not just their ages and lived experiences; it's more this brief insight into how they each came to be at König.
Neither O’Donnell nor Brückner give too much away, and they keep you guessing about the origins of their characters, which endears you more to Anna and Felix. There is great chemistry between O’Donnell and co-writer Brückner that helps give the production its heart. Anna’s eternal optimism is a refreshing antidote to Felix’s sour mood and frustration, even if, to him, it’s justified. Seeing how O’Donnell and Brückner work together provides the audience with this unique insight into the world they have created for Anna and Felix.
"It's the smells, the feelings, the relationships, and the places that hold memories that comfort our soul."
Before the fringe, I spoke with David Brückner, who said, "We are living in a society that does not support art," which I thought was a very direct and stark truth. On seeing Come To Our Show (Please), I now fully appreciate what Brückner meant. For hundreds of years, the circus was a cultural bedrock of society, and in every corner of the world, in tiny, medium, large, and even city-based communities, visiting the travelling circus was essential. With growing technology, the breakdown of communities, and the redevelopment of land, the circus has become passé; they are no longer destinations for families or young people. Issues with animal welfare and rights as well as the treatment of the performers have made the circus a hot topic of contention, something that Wippell and Brückner touch on early in the play.
This message is brilliantly realised by director and set designer Apostolos Zografos choice of minimal sets and props, which aided in the believability of Anna and Felix’s world. The circus is about performance; it’s about celebrating the imagination by creating worlds that transfix the audiences. When Anna mimes the chicken farm and Felix mimes his home, both O’Donnell and Brückner create something very special and touching. Their physicality aside, they both drag you in, and you believe in this reality because they do. There is a beauty in the way, over time, Felix relents to Anna. It’s not because she’s worn him down; I believe it’s because he connects with the magic of the world she’s creating and of the home she’s found and wants to keep.
Come To Our Show (Please) is a touching and well-written and performed piece of physical theatre that is filled with heart, humour, and understanding. It is a story about fighting for what you believe in and never giving up, even when all the chips are down and you know you’re liked. This is when you fight the hardest, and as Anna proves, by having a belief in yourself and in what you want to do, you can never lose your passion, which can inspire those closest to you.