Go see Cardinal. Even if you don’t like clowns see it anyway – it might change your mind.
Cardinal is, by its own definition in the Fringe program, a show about Alzheimer’s. It could be interpreted in other ways by audience members who don’t know that going in, but this speaks more to the strength of the artistic creation by Mitchel Rose and Madeleine Hall than any weaknesses.
Silent save for musical tracks, we meet Him (Rose), all in red, entering his space with red walls, red chairs, and even two nails for him to hang up his red socks. Soon however She (Hall) peeks over the edges of the wall and starts the slow-burning game of transforming his entire world into her own, which is identical to his, only white and in mirror-image. He resists valiantly and amusingly, but the dark nature of his futile attempts to maintain control of his own space cannot help but make you sigh even as you laugh.
Both Rose and Hall have wonderful physicality – he has an open stance with big movements, while she usually scuttles around behind, acting the perfect sneak. The physical nature of the show and the performers’ dedication is driven home when Rose, by the end of a performance, has sweated off nearly all of the white makeup on his face. Their concentration is excellent – a large part of clown performance is to be always be playing some sort of game, and it is always clear with these two what that game is. When one game is lost and won, they seamlessly transition into a new one.
One sequence does go on longer than necessary – there are 3 red chairs which are eventually replaced with white ones, but the extended chase around the set between Him and Her as he tries to take back his red chairs and she tries to replace them with her white ones drags a bit. The other games however, such as a game of Chair Checkers, are as delightful as they are disturbing once it becomes obvious what Her goal is: to take over his space.
The Alzheimer’s theme is very strong in this piece. Again, Cardinal could be interpreted in a number of different ways – cultural assimilation or appropriation being one example – but knowing that this theme is what Rose and Hall were going for, it is expressed beautifully through the tortuous expressions of Him as he tries to maintain control of a stage environment that keeps changing on him.
There are only a few technical suggestions I would give: the audio tracks are repetitive and not expertly edited; there were a few with distracting reverb in the background. Additionally, the white walls, once they appear, seem a bit dirty, but these are fairly minor quibbles concerning a great show.
Cardinal is one of the stronger shows I have seen at Fringe so far this year, and I highly encourage you to go see it.
Approximately 50 minutes
At Academic Hall
An Aplombusrhombus production
Created and Performed by Mitchel Rose and Madeleine Hall