Review: The Letter- Paolo Nani at Pleasance

When you read that a show has been touring in countries across the world for close to 30 years, expectations are immediately set high. Happily, classically trained clown Paolo Nani not only meets but exceeds them at every turn. Making its Scottish debut this Fringe, The Letter is an exceptional work of art and craftsmanship 27 years in the making.

A man walks on stage, drinks some wine, writes a letter, then leaves. This same short scene is repeated in various styles or under certain restrictive stage directions for the remaining hour, think ‘western’ or ‘in reverse’. It’s a simple premise but one that at no point starts to feel repetitive, Paolo Nani pulling off the deft feat of keeping the audience both one step ahead and four behind at all times. 

With a feeling of déja vu sinking in, a playful relationship between actor and audience is quickly established despite Nani remaining mostly mute. This being the case, the level of communication is truly impressive, Nani proving himself a master of mime and physical theatre with a breathtaking control of facial expression. This is a man worthy of every accolade levelled at him, making it easy to see why The Letter has so far been performed in over 37 countries, by Nani’s own reckoning, more than 1600 times, appropriate for a show that is itself reiterations of the same short vignette. 

Pleasingly, for a festival celebrating lower budget productions, it’s a minimal performance, both in concept and staging, with lighting, set, props and costume all being kept to the bare essentials. It is arguably through this stripped-back style that Paolo Nani’s skill truly shines, with The Letter showcasing his talent as surely one of the world’s greatest clowns and a show not to be missed.

The Letter is at Pleasance Dome – KingDome at 5.30 pm until the 25th

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