Reviews

*

Letter’s End

Published Monday 28 January 2013 by Liz Arratoon Like all great clowns, Wolfe Bowart can make you laugh but he can also make you cry. Anyone who saw his enchanting show LaLaLuna in Joseph Seelig and Helen Lannaghan’s 2007 London International Mime Festival has longed for the American theatre clown to return to the event.

Letter’s End is another of his beautifully crafted one-man shows, in which he uses physical theatre, magic, circus skills and interactive film to unfold a story. There is no need to give too much away, but his theme of memory and memories is one of heart-breaking poignancy, yet told with the lightest touch. It is crammed full of joyful inventiveness and silliness ; idea tumbles upon idea and yes, there are letters and lots of them.

Slim and energetic, Bowart wears a minimum of clown make-up, baggy trousers, a waistcoat, long shoes and a little felt hat. Charm is his domain and he holds the audience spellbound. Everything is precisely timed to an eclectic soundtrack of accordion, oompah, fairground or Klezmer music and with props popping out from here, smoke from there, things going up and down and noises off, there are a staggering 330 cues for him to hit. So SpoonTree’s technical director Chris Donnelly and stage manager Matteo Marino must also be acknowledged.

Bowart is a master of his art. From the simple room set, backed with washes of coloured light, and dotted with intriguing boxes, a glowing furnace and items as diverse as a gramophone and glue bottle, Letter’s End, both funny and sad, is a gorgeously attractive and entertaining show.

*



Letter’s End
SpoonTree Productions
At The Q until May 2
Reviewed by Arne Sjostedt

The narrative behind this one-man show, snuck in underneath the circus tricks and innovative use of multimedia, was about a man rediscovering his memories via letters and parcels dropped through a chute.

A glance at Wolfe Bowart’s resumé hinted this would be a quality show from a star performer.  True to expectation, Bowart brought to life one of those classic theatre experiences.  Tableaux, comedy, simple moments of joy, love and wonder.

The set was a simple room – bookshelf, letter chute, furnace.  The stage becoming a place to entertain, and an existential representation of the clown-like character’s mind, where most parcels ended up burnt in the furnace.

Was this his job?  Why was the clown trying to burn each package?  Later, amid a mix of dance, sleight of hand, shadow puppetry and beautiful clown-like movement, we begin to see he is rediscovering the loves of his life.  A favourite childhood bear is dropped from the chute, and Bowart hesitantly, then gracefully performs a man/bear promenade.  A metaphor, perhaps, of his

 

journey through life.  The first letter that is opened contains old, faded roses among its papers.  These later become full, red blooms in the prime of their health.

At the very end, Bowart opens the furnace to find what might be his most treasured letters, or memories, still alive in the fire.  He pours water onto them, and turns the smoke stack into a hat that shoots out wonderful bubbles. 

This was a transformation that crosses the boundaries of loneliness and pain into joy and wonder, played out all the more poignantly as we see the character grow from a young boy, a father and into an old man.

The night included Bowart, who has trained with Cirque du Soleil, hovering from the ground, balancing on a gramophone 1.8m from the stage, and making a canary marvellously come to life on a sheet of paper.  Bowart’s character in Letter’s End, whose costuming showed a sartorial elegance, reminded me of Estragon or Vladimir in Waiting for Godot.

Like watching an animated art-house short film that relies on visual charm and skill more than it does words, Letter’s End is certainly one of those memorable pieces.

*

Last night a memorable piece of theatrical magic descended upon Launceston’s Princess Theatre and enthralled old and young alike.

Created by the engaging and exquisitely talented Wolfe Bowart, Letter’s End was a unique marriage of mime, magic and physical comedy.

Tapping effortlessly into the traditions of Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Marceau, to name but two, Bowart led his audience through a world of childlike wonder where memories were given shape and form.

As a quirky character responsible for burning unclaimed mail in the depths of a dead-end letter office, Bowart took his audience on a journey of discovery.

His inventive use of interactive film coupled with an endless sequence of comedic pieces made Letter’s End an enchanting work.

Described undoubtedly as a master of physical theatre, Bowart was able to captivate and mesmerise his audience with his marvellous presence and effortless theatrical dexterity.

Letter’s End was one of those rare pieces of theatre that must be seen to be believed.  It continues at the Princess Theatre tonight at 7.  Don’t miss the magic.

-Marcus Bower

*

Wendy Brazil, ArtSound FM:

I don’t know the why or the wherefore, but there is something instantly appealing about a man who comes on to a stage and looks into space with that utterly forlorn look of bewilderment, resignation and melancholy.  You know that you will be mesmerised, and that he will make you laugh, he will make you sigh, and you will be enchanted by his every move. 

On Thursday night, I went to the Q Theatre and discovered Wolfe Bowart – and re-discovered delicious memories of Marcel Marceau.  But Bowart is no copycat of Marceau, or any other clown.  He is himself.  He’s the disposer of lost parcels and dead letters in his show called “Letter’s End.” 

In the end, I’m not certain whether Wolfe Bowart’s gentle and delightful magic is alchemy, because he fools me completely with his elegant tricks, or is it chemistry?  That sort of chemistry which creates the perfect bond between performer and audience.  I don’t know the answer.  I only know that in the words of Joseph Addison “I was transported with the view.  I was lost in wonder, love and praise.”

*

Students didn’t want this letter to end, The Illawarra Mercury:

Students from the 2009 Wollongong Academically Gifted Class review Wolfe Bowart’s Letter’s End, which was playing at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre.

This is the best play I have ever seen and I would certainly recommend it to other people.  My favourite part was when Wolfe fought the fly until it died.
MARIUS POLHILL

Letter’s End is a beautifully constructed play.  My favourite part would have to be getting targeted with a water squirter.
GEORGIA HARRISON

Wolfe Bowart is a true theatrical miracle in the way that he can interact with the audience and make them laugh their heads off.
AMY WITHNALL

Letter’s End involved quirky circus tricks, a fantastic number of funny props and expressive physical miming.
EMMA CHARLES

I loved how he levitated at the end – it was amazing.  A spectacular wonderful performance.
ALISTER SIMPSON

The magic tricks were amazing and funny.  The props were cool, such as the hat that shot bubbles out the top.
IAN BENNETT

A mind-blowing imaginative story … it is moving and emotional and includes many forms of media, such as puppetry and film. 
XAVIER COOK-KNOWLES

This play shows love, sorrow, loss and many other different emotions that we all go through at some stage of our lives.
EMILY ROSE FIRTH

Letter’s End is a masterpiece, enchanting to both adults and children.
XINONG WANG

*

Ken Longworth, The Newcastle Herald:

A man employed to burn lost letters and packages in a large furnace does his job meticulously until an old brown teddy bear falls out of a torn parcel one day. 

The bear stirs something in his memory and he begins playing with it.  He is soon opening other letters and packets to see what is inside.

Letter’s End is a more contemplative work than its creator Wolfe Bowart’s previous show, LaLaLuna, which delighted Newcastle audiences two years ago.

In LaLaLuna, Bowart combined physical comedy, mime, circus skills and use of film and sound to deliver an enchanting entertainment about the moon’s caretaker trying to find a way of making shine brightly again after breaking the last replacement light globe.

The same elements are present in Letter’s End, with Bowart adding amazing use of magic to his engaging repertoire.

Often, the magic extends from one sequence to another.  His dead-letter-office worker takes an apple from a still-life painting of fruit.  He later munches it, then the part-eaten apple is put into a shoe that Bowart finds in the audience and is watered, leading to an apple tree rapidly growing to a 2-metre height.

Bowart’s skills in his chosen field as a performer are second to none, as is his attention to detail, with virtually every item in the old-fashioned room setting used in his routines.

And I have seen few who can make a recurring joke, here the efforts of the man to get rid of an irritating fly, stay so funny until its last appearance.

*

www.lettersend.com.au