An oddly stifling heat taking grip outside - wonderfully drenching those situated on surrounding Princes Street Gardens, and leaving me cursing my decision to wear a jacket and lumber around with a heavy rucksack - stepping into the rather magical new Assembly Spiegeltent venue set in this scenic location felt like stepping into a new world entirely.
As such it was perfect for Julien Cottereau, who could have been created by a Francophile David Lynch who has binged on the collected works of Mr Bean, then decided that he could do far, far better.
And Cottereau is indeed a delight; if director Christopher Nolan created a blockbuster about our imagination with Inception, this afternoon’s clowning performance artist has created a blockbuster within his own imagination, one that it’s our delight to share over the course of a jam-packed hour.
He could be called a mime, were it not for his amazing use of vocal sound effects, hauling a child onstage for a magical game of keepie-uppy, one which ‘sees’ an imaginary ball being kicked dextrously between the two participants, sound effects making the charade seem blissfully grounded in reality.
In a marvellous coincidence the kid’s T-shirt displays an image of a football alongside the text: ‘The reason why I get up in the morning.’ I’d have imagined that this provided an easy highlight of the day, if not the entire year, for the pint-sized participant.
Cottereau, with his abundance of visual and audio trickery, could also be thought of as a clown. Stood eagerly before us he resembles nothing more than an elf blown up to human size, with his clothes remaining the same and so tightly wrapped around him, with his gonzo naivety bringing to mind the likes of Pee-wee Herman.
He turns an imaginary broom into a double bass, takes some non-existent chewing gum and uses it as a skipping rope, and gets a striking and fantastically frolicsome female audience member to act out an entire love affair between the onstage pair over a heart-breakingly brief period. As if that wasn't enough, Cottereau also gets a hilariously agreeable male spectator to join him and the young lady in the best Charlie Chaplin movie that’s never even existed (except in the collective consciousness of those lucky enough to witness this show).
There’s thrills and spills galore from the main performing troupe of one member, so many opportunities to laugh out loud and go ‘Awwwww...’ as though you’ve just seen a particularly cute kitten playing with a cotton wool ball on YouTube. Plus by the end of Cottereau’s performance there’s an unexpected tender moment with which to get teary-eyed, providing a bittersweet whimsical melancholy reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie.
Then, most unfortunately, we have to step out of his world and back into our own, which if anything was the only disappointment of his show. In my imagination though, I’m back as I write, and what a great feeling it is. Mind if you leave me alone for an hour or so?