Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Quick-Change Artist

The animated version of Mona Lisa
We just got back from an entertaining evening by Ennio Marchetto: The Living Paper Cartoon at the Academy for Performing Arts.

Not knowing what to expect, we were a) intrigued b) surprised and c) weirded out when we saw a man in a black lycra suit (with fantastic legs) doing some fun renditions and lip-synching of famous pop stars and celebrities with only some cardboard costumes that stuck to his head and body.

For example, he came out as the Mona Lisa complete with picture frame, and made hilarious faces at the audience. In another artistic segment, he was Venus de Milo, wondering why she couldn't move her arms.

Marchetto as Marilyn Monroe in her halter dress
Marchetto proved himself deft at portraying such people as Cher and Dolly Parton (complete with pendulous breasts) sitting astride a donkey, and Justin Bieber and Rhianna, Madonna (with conical corset) and Stevie Wonder complete with rainbow braided locks, shades and a keyboard.

We loved Marchetto coming out as Queen Elizabeth II, giving the ubiquitous royal wave and carrying a handbag, and then immediately transformed himself into Freddie Mercury.

It was these "magic tricks" that kept audiences guessing what would be next. And he was non-stop for about an hour, doing one rendition after another, each with a slight twist.

Another favourite was the one of Celine Dion singing My Heart Will Go On from Titanic, and Marchetto comes out with a mane of blond hair and dress, that soon transforms into the giant ill-fated cruise liner and then whips out paper dolls of Rose and Jack, puts them at the bow of the ship and then throw them overboard!

Voguing as Madonna complete with conical corset
His one tribute to Hong Kong was Hero Story, the theme song from Police Story, doing some kung fu and throwing his fist through a "pile of rocks" made of paper. Nevertheless we were impressed he did lip synch the words in Cantonese.

What made Marchetto's act great were his costumes, these paper outfits that were artistically made, but also engineered to fold ingeniously to reveal new characters and items, like thermometers used in the song Fever.

This is Marchetto's fourth visit to Hong Kong, and the opening night had some loyal fans in the audience. What's interesting to note is that Marchetto is 53 and he's been doing this act -- variations of characters -- for about 25 years.

A heavy-set Dolly Parton riding a donkey...
One has to wonder what he was like growing up as a kid -- did he like dress up? He was inspired by the animation of Walt Disney, the choreography of Pina Bausch and mime performer Lindsay Kemp. Marchetto performed for many years at the Venetian Carnival and then got his big break in 1989 at the Edinburgh Fringe and has been a cult hit ever since.

So even though it's not exactly high art, it's great entertainment and makes one appreciate someone who has the guts to go it alone on stage non stop for an hour.

Ennio Marchetto: The Living Paper Cartoon
Until October 13
Drama Theatre, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

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