A show that delivers what it says on the tin, Circa One is simply and elegantly transformed into an artist's studio. An easel, table, and precarious set of shelves makes for a deceptively simple set up. A lush houseplant adds to the minimalist IKEA aesthetic. Juho Rahijarvi’s lighting design also keeps it pared back, serving to enhance the simplicity rather than make a statement. Monckton himself, with a mop of electrified hair, wiry frame, and eyes bugging from beneath his spectacles, feels like the cherry on top of the nouveau hipster sundae. The only real question is: can the artist ever finish a painting?
The show follows a simple structure, as the artist gets entangled in an ever evolving series of gags and physical comedy routines as he attempts to go about his work. Painting a still-life seems to be a simple enough task, but you can bet this artist will find some way to bungle it.
However, don’t mistake the show for being as simple as it looks on the surface. Trickery abounds from a helpful dose of magical prop work. Picture frames change shape and size. Double-sided paintings serve as clever visual punchlines. A leak drips from the ceiling ( truly capturing the working environment of the modern artist), leaving Monckton no choice but to catch the drip in his mug; a spare bucket; his mouth, even - luckily, teabags are on-hand to sweeten the deal.
Despite all the wonderful stage trickery, the real master of illusion is Monckton himself. A gifted physical performer, Monckton's presence is electric, from his goofy facial expressions right down to his yellow-socked toes. Dialogue goes directly to the bin, instead, Monckton communicates with his body and the odd bit of gibberish. It’s a skill he nails, right down to a spot of non-verbal audience banter.
He knows just how to exploit every prop, audience reaction, and moment to its extreme. Just how much comedy can you really wrangle out of a banana? It turns out, quite a lot - in an audience favourite gag, Moncktons bananas set up a rave, only allowing their fellow yellow fruits to enter. Cue a clever pear who works out they need only steal a peel to get past the bouncer and into the fruit bowl. There’s even a classic slipping on a banana peel gag for those hankering for a classic.
A collaboration with Circo Aereo, the comedy really ramps up thanks to Moncktons circus tricks. Initially, these are kept hidden, and the goofy clown reigns supreme, allowing us an introduction to the character of the artist before things get too flashy. Slowly we are drip-fed some of Moncktons secret skills - such as the ability to hold himself one handed in the air as he fires a staple gun, and to scale a ladder in ways hitherto thought impossible. These feats of acrobatics garner a fair share of audience gasps, and I find myself genuinely concerned at one point that Monckton may end up with a tottering set of shelves flattening him. But no, here we are in safe hands, and I am reminded not to doubt the immense skill of The Artist.