The Overcoat ****1/2

The Overcoat is a surprisingly moving production.  Loosely based on Gogol’s novella with the same title, the play tells the story of a young clerk who desperately wants to impress a young woman by winning an elaborate overcoat on offer as a bonus at work.

Produced by noted company Gecko, the story is told completely in stylised movement.  There is some dialogue, but most of it isn’t in English (truthfully, I’m not quite sure what it was).  But that is no matter.  Most of the narrative is perfectly clear, from the clerk’s elaborate fantasy life to a highly stylised paper bureaucracy that is the most elaborate and beautifully portrayed form of office-hell I’ve seen since Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

The cast are fantastic, following complicated direction that all pulls together.  But this is a visual feast, one where style certainly overrules substance, even though there is still much substance.  In fact, for The Overcoat, it’s a bit of a backhanded comment, for though the choreography is far clearer here than in most physical theatre productions, there are still moments that are difficult to follow.  But the style is so profound and the movement so exaggerated that the general gist is still grasped, even if some of the plot beats are a bit unclear.

With impassioned performances, excellent design and stunning movement filled with wonder and imagination, The Overcoat is easily one of the best-produced productions I’ve seen this year.  Filled with memorable moments, it is moving, funny and at times poignant.  It is an imaginative journey worthy of taking.

Playing at the Pleasance Courtyard at 17.20 until August 31.


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