Cirque de Legume is currently presenting their play “Cirque de Legume” at 59 east 59th street theaters, last year’s hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A classic red-nosed clown piece that zooms back and forth between the cutely uncomfortable to the grotesque and obscene. It is composed of a scenes that transform the common vegetable (romaine lettuce, carrots, beets) or the not so common (artichoke, leeks) into the center piece of a whirlwind of slapstick and subtle physical humor. (I heard one child in the audience yell out when they brought out the artichoke, “What is THAT mom?”)
It starts with the way many clown shows do; the clowns come on stage and stand there, looking at the audience timidly, awkwardly fixing their clothing, searching for a sound or a word to speak. The audience begins to quietly laugh, not sure what to do. The clowns respond to the audience, looking directly at them, allowing their vulnerability to be seen. The energy of the room begins to settle together and sync up.
Cirque de Legume did this in total silence for at least 5 minutes. We could hear the other members of the audience shifting and muffling their laughter as we tried to decide if we were going to give ourselves the permission to laugh. (We did.)
As a starting place for the show, this quiet beginning gave us common ground to stand on and prepare for the onslaught. It helped us to throw off whatever meeting, obligation, or job we had been at before the performance, and relax into it.