'Letter's End' – Wolfe Bowart | London International Mime Festival
A fast-paced one man show, ‘Letter’s End’ delivers a quirky bundle of puppetry, circus, film, magic and mayhem, which showcases the epic skill set of Cirque du Soleil trained clown Wolfe Bowart.
In a dimly lit storeroom of odds and ends, the hero (who is equal parts Marcel Marceau and Lee Evans) brings every object in sight to life, in between his main chore of sorting through piles of mysterious brown paper packages. As an accordion-heavy but perfectly timed soundtrack blares, this silent clown’s discovery of a pile of lost letters transforms his 80-minute mission into a comical quest to explore memories past and loves lost.
As packets are ripped open and letters are read out, with the soundtrack filling in some vocal blanks to complement the mime, we are hauled into a slightly voyeuristic world of private but misplaced correspondence.
With an imagination as untamed as his dress sense, Wolfe Bowart does not disappoint as he works his magic, conjuring red paper hearts and flower heads from nowhere. Although his sleight of hand talents are to be praised, much of this clown’s prowess is to be found in his puppetry and object manipulation skills.
Highlights include when a limp brown teddy bear falls out of a package, only to come to life in the protagonist’s hands; and the tale of a couple’s romantic boat trip over bobbing waves, skilfully depicted through shadow puppetry.
Even a plastic turkey and suit jacket are put together for a comical object theatre skit, while an old string mop is given a new lease of life as it begins barking and bouncing around playfully in its owner’s hands. It’s these moments of inventiveness that hold our attention throughout and keep us pondering over what whacky stunt might come next.
The set design screams nostalgia, with dusty looking ornaments and books on shelves, topped with a gramophone that serves as a focal point for some hilarious moments, including an attempt by the excitable clown to stand on top of it while it turns. A large panel pasted with handwritten letters also provides a fitting backdrop to the set and later evolves into a film projection screen.
Though the laughs keep coming, they peter out towards a more sombre ending and the bustling pace, which is such a positive force until this point, does decelerate somewhat. I cannot help but feel that the closing film piece is a little superfluous. The show is strong enough as a bouncy, comical and painstakingly rehearsed investigation into memory and nostalgia.
'Letter’s End' by Wolfe Bowart
Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room
London International Mime Festival