REVIEW:Paulina Lenoir: Puella Eterna @ Spiegeltent

May 26, 2024

Paulina Lenoir

Puella Eterna

Brighton Spiegeltent

Would you like to live forever? This is a show about LIFE, in all its glorious and tumultuous stages, presented with a daring blend of burlesque and clowning. Paulina Lenoir, designer and theatre-maker turned existential clown, invites us on a journey of birth, life, and death, narrated by this generation’s most enigmatic poet, Puella Eterna.

Paulina, with her moody and impulsive presence, speaks in a beguiling smokey accent, all late night Paris and the train to Bucharest. Delivering a performance that’s both weird and wacky, infused with experimental and abstract comedic elements. Is it clowning, acting, dance? Are we in her mind, in the tent, or in a different liminal space? This show is pure cabaret, showcasing Paulines skills of comedy timing, clowning, high octane style and movement.Ā  The show is a series of short ‘acts’ each representing a different stage of life, from an initial immaculate self-conception to the eventual sloughing off of the flesh.

These short life ‘acts’ provide the narrative thrust. A quick intro allows us to understand the journey we’re on and theseĀ  disparate actionsā€”from growing up and wanting to play with your friends, to a manic flash of puberty, eggs are smashed whilst odd powerful dances takes place, taken together they create a unique tapestry of lifeā€™s moments. We are gently invited as audience members to supply narrative choices at key moments of the show, whetherĀ  these actual influence what happens or not is difficult to judge, but they certainly engage and bring laughter.Ā  Our own experiences of love are gently teased out of us to general delight.

A standout comedic highlight is Paulinaā€™s masterful routine with a baby doll puppet, her face seamlessly integrated into the doll’s, offering an adorable yet hilariously unsettling experience. This brilliantly showcases her comedic prowess, and she brings real ‘babyness’ to the weirdness, her velvet Labrador eyes scanning the room constantly for connection. Looking for her ‘mother’, asking to be fed, and clumsily with her teeny tiny hand being unable to pull the mini curtains as the ‘baby’ leaves the stage. Her facial comedic expressions are a constant delight.

Paulina’s costumes are serious fab, floaty tulle, off the shoulder diaphanous dressing gowns, read leather coats and chic Parisian glasses, with some wonderful reveals and changes to provide physical laughter supporting these burlesque elements of the show, i adored the extravagant BabyJane tulle bow with a towering wig adorned in roses. These outfits are ingeniously explored, deconstructed and discarded, offering character depth as ‘life’ moves on.Ā  Gloves are used to wonderful comedic effect in this show, it’s probably the best use of gloves I’ve ever seen, so very very funny, matched perfectly to a growing sense of alarm in the performers eyes. The show opens with Paulina in the dressing room, back to us, catching our eyes in a mirror as she finished her make us, wonderfully intimate and subversive start. She’s conversing with the sound tech via radios, the sound was never quite loud enough to catch most of the dialogue which was a pity as it was a funny running joke.

Throughout Puella Eterna, Paulina employs a mix of music to accentuate the cabaret vibe, alongside quirky sound effects like roaring big cats and nature-documentary voice overs. Wrapped up with some familiar classical tracks which add atmosphere to the different ‘stages’ of life.

I liked the existential thread that ties the acts together, but it would benefit from delving deeper into the mythological concept of ‘Puella Aeterna,’ (an eternally young woman filled with a zest for living)Ā  More context would enrich the audience’s understanding and engagement with the various routines. But this is perhaps a critics demand and not something from an afternoon audience on a hot sunny spring sunday. The Audience seemed more than happy with following along. We end with ageing and death, of course, handled with charm and gentle humour and real roses lad down to rest on her body,Ā  that had been handed out to various potential lovers earlier in the act.

Paulina Lenoir is undeniably a comic and dance genius, and Puella Eterna has moments of real delight, and i suspect a lot of physical dance comedy which my uneducated eye missed.Despite the light soundĀ  hiccups, the show is a captivating exploration of lifeā€™s stages through the eyes of an eternal poet, leaving a lasting impression on its audience. For those seeking a bold and unconventional theatrical experience, Puella Eterna is a journey worth taking and worth taking with an outstretched hand, and open heart and the expectation to be surprised.

My companion laughed throughout the show and said it was utterly charming and very funny show with a profound existential undertow which tugs at the heart whilst allowing the pure joy of superb physical comedy and daft clowning to delight.

For more into on the WeekendĀ  of Weird at the Brighton Spiegeltent check out their website here:Ā