The Art of Laughter @ The Shaw Theatre (London International Mime Festival 2016) Review

Why do we laugh, what makes us laugh and what happens to the body when we do laugh? In this dissection of laughter from everyday life, The Art of Laughter is a unique soliloquy presented by Jos Houben. Alone on stage, Houben presents a philosophical treatise and an anthropological study on the construct of laughter. This show illuminates the ideology of laughter, exploring dynamics, causes and effects of this natural human instinct. This is a show of introduction and education, demonstrating the format of a seminar or masterclass. Within this production, Houben introduces you to conventions, comedy and bodily functions, associated with laughter, and believe me you wont stop laughing!

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The Art of Laughter, in collaboration with the London International Mime Festival, has toured extensively, winning a multitude of Awards and Accreditation. The show is perfectly structured, introducing the ideology of an audience and their comfort within a production space. Furthermore, the show moves to critically analyse laughter in a manner that is contagious, erupting through the stalls of the Shaw Theatre.

Houben is Belgian and is currently a teacher at the acclaimed and prestigious Lecoq School in Paris. As a professionally trained actor, he was an original member of Complicite and has collaborated on many varying productions and produced several TV Shows. Jos Houben is truly charming, infectious and utterly engaging to watch. In his demonstrations the essence of clown is undeniable, revealing a sense of silliness and frivolity. His expert eye and experience as a professional actor, make him uniquely qualified to elucidate the humanity and silliness of our existence. This is an evening of bubbling pedagogy, where the themes of humour, comedy, reliability and commonality are explored. This inclusive production is filled with laughter, amusement and exploration as you watch within the seminar (theatre) setting. Within this production there is a unique ability to converse with the star, enabling audience interaction, pedagogy of inclusion, sharing words as part of a pre-show structure. As part of the London International Mime Festival, this show is appropriately themed, relatable and entertaining.

This production is enlightening with each audience member engaging with the production and its moments of laughter, reflecting highs and lows in the format of Houben’s design and journey. In a relatable yet diverse way, this production focusses on a subject that is relevant to all humans and this is sensed within the space, demonstrating an atmosphere of joy. Watching this production, it becomes evident that characteristically this performance is entertaining, stimulating and engaging, Houben leading his show to success. However, there are many theoretical connections of development within the show. As a drama student, I often find myself agreeing and reacting to the theorists mentioned, however, I question how accessible this is to other audience members, it highlights the question of audience demographic.

The Art of Laughter is a show about interaction, human instinct and the anthropological study of human reactions. Within the production there is a connotation of a multitude of themes which include self-development, education, identity and growth. These are all explored within one hour of action, succinct and concise in every fragment of direction. This production gives the audience a real sense of enlightenment, not only through the construct of laughter but also performer, spectator relationship. Whilst watching the production it is evident that there is a real sense of care and thought for all audience members, presenting inclusion for individuals, taking time to introduce the audience to the set up of the show.

This production is truly unique in concept and construction; it is a production that offers thought and demonstrations that are truly hilarious. Although, I question its accessibility, this production is undeniably entertaining and engaging, it is a show not to be missed. The Art of Laughter is a production of communal thinking and reliability, everyone laughs, surely? It expresses the ideology of ‘laughter’ featuring an educational discipline through the narrative of professor to student relationship. I leave the production laughing, but now not only laughing, but analysing why I am laughing, what has made me laugh and how my body is testifying my laughter. 4/5

Review written by Meg Mattravers.

The Art of Laughter was shown on Sunday 10th January as part of this year’s London International Mime Festival. For more information on Jos Houben, visit here…

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