BE Festival

Birmingham Rep


The Forman Brothers are a leading company from Czech Republic. In their production of Deadtown, directed by Petr Forman, the company made up of circus performers, dancers and singers bring their talent for circus theatre and magic to the stage.

Its multi-lingual, multi-media production looks upon the silent movie genre to create their story set in the Wild West town. The Forman Brothers’ production shows a story that mixes the arts of circus performance, magic and early twentieth century film in an exhilarating performance.

The production is a celebration of many forms of performance art, and as a result, our senses are constantly at attention. We are greeted first by the circus ring master as the play starts, welcoming us in multiple languages. Within a few sequences, the company of talented circus performers treat us to many entertaining circus acts. The five-piece band constantly provide a musical background to create an impressive sensory backdrop, adding to the talent found in every corner of the production. We also see roller-skating men, beautiful singers and disappearing acts. It is a testament to a creativity that knows no bounds.

One sequence that should receive a special mention alone are the truly mesmerising scenes from the bicycle performers. The audience become more than impressed seeing the performer stand on the handlebars and riding one wheeled around the stage. But let’s not forget, this is a company specialising in magic. The stakes are raised even higher when a trampoline is then bought on stage. We then see the out of this world performer tackling jumps, tricks and cartwheels simultaneously with the bike and trampoline together, making him the acrobatic hero of the evening.

Deadtown draws upon the influences of silent and Western film. The second half of the rich production takes the form of a typical Western film plot. We are greeted again by the ringmaster from the start of the show who in effect tells us that what we just saw was good, but the real magic was about to begin.

Suddenly a gauze flies down from above and reflects images of a magician traveling through the plains of the West. Behind, we see the live action ‘film’ played out by company, as the magician makes his journey through the stormy deserts and arrives to the saloon in the ‘peaceful’ Deadtown. The landlady instantly takes to the magician’s talent and worldly experience, thinking him a perfect match for her daughter. The landlady’s daughter of course, is in love with the local cowboy of no regard or lineage. When the lover enters the saloon at the moment of the forced marriage to the magician, there ensues a Western shootout and dual to the death.

The Forman Brothers capture the essence of the silent Western genres with incredible flair. This is almost a given, being that they are the sons of the Oscar- winning Milos Forman. Each performer from the multi-talented cast of twenty create humorous motives as they take on the roles of chivalrous cowboys, alluding to typical characters from the big screen. Within this live action film, we are also constantly reminded that the brothers specialise in optical illusion, and so there are always surprises to keep our attention and intrigue.

To see the genre of film and theatre merge together is spectacular indeed. The production celebrates the great makers of film from the past, and adds their own unique approach to modern theatre making. The energetic and bold company are a thrill to see. It is a wonderful start to the BE Festival 2019, as this year sees its tenth year of celebrating European theatre and performance.

Elizabeth Halpin


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