JOHAN PADAN AND THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA
Riverside Studios, London W6
Opened 30 May, 2002

** Over-long and under-electrifying solo storytelling

Mario Pirovano looks like author/director Dario Fo's "Mini-Me"; unfortunately, the "Mini" extends to his talent as a solo performer.

Fo gets away with his one-man pieces largely because it's him performing them. In the case of this rambling, insufficiently focused tale about an Everyman who finds himself lost from Columbus's expedition and stranded among the natives in the New World, you can imagine Fo animating two and a half hours of demotic, often bawdy Italian.

Pirovano was recruited as Fo's chauffeur and general factotum some 20 years ago and learned how to perform simply by watching the master. It shows. His English translation loses the edge of slanginess, the bawdy becomes plain coarse, he goes through the physical motions but with insufficient exuberance and far less precision, and his face betrays his continuing fundamental diffidence. The story itself is fairly amusing, but lacks the mordant insight of Fo's best work.

There's an unwritten but pretty firm rule that usually, a solo performance especially one which is more storytelling than drama can't in practice be more than 90 minutes long at most, unless it has something very special to offer. Unfortunately, neither presentation nor content is special enough in this case for Fo and Pirovano to get away with it.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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