The Theatreguide.London Review
Garrick Theatre Autumn 2009
Arturo Brachetti is a quick change artist - that is, he appears in one costume, walks out a door or behind a panel, and reappears a second or two later in another. And then he does it again. And again.
A hundred years or so ago, quick change artists were a staple of American vaudeville and British music hall (though the art form dates back to the 15th century), often performing short plays, exiting as, say, Dickens' Fagin to reappear immediately as Bill Sykes or Nancy.
Brachetti doesn't do plays, but rather strings of themed changes. An opening tribute to London has him go from Beefeater to punk to the Queen to pearly queen to City gent to Britannia, all in a minute or so.
A salute to Hollywood races through more than twenty images, from Nosferatu through Gene Kelly, Bogart and Bergman (at the same time), King Kong, Carmen Miranda, Scarlett O'Hara, Harry Potter - well, you get the idea. (Another extended sequence devoted to Fellini films clearly has more emotional resonance for Brachetti, and perhaps his Italian audiences, than it will for most at the Garrick.)
There is no question that this is very impressive - the first few times. But I suspect that even the children in the audience will figure out pretty quickly how he does it (layers of tearaway costumes for offstage assistants to rip off).
Sensing this, Brachetti sprinkles in some other illusions. He plays a scene with a film version of himself, moving in and out of the screen.
There are some lovely animal shadows on the wall made with his hands, and some elementary magic of the flowers-out-of-a-hat sort. One clever sequence has him playing a violin, only to develop a third arm that keeps getting in his way.
But essentially he's a one-trick pony, and what might be sensational as a five-minute slot in, say, a Royal Variety Performance, does begin to wear thin, even in a fairly short (100 minutes, including long interval) evening.
Still, the show is already being very heavily discounted, and at as little as £10 a ticket, it makes for a pleasant half-term or pre-holiday family entertainment.
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