Frikchou: Are you normal?

It’s not often you see a riotous show that changes the way you see the world. But the artistic collective La Patogallina did this with surprising ease in their performance of Frikchou (see photos).

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

At first glance, “Frikchou” (Freakshow) was exactly that; a carnival side-show that showcased human oddities such as a hunchback, a simpleton, a woman with four legs and a man with none.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

However, Santiago-based La Patogallina turned this idea on its head, and the crowd quickly worked out that the so-called human monstrosities hustling them into their seats were simply the circus staff.

In this big top, the only thing shown to be grotesque was the absurdity of 'normal' life.

Presented in nine fast-paced circus acts that took in birth, death and everything in between, all the fun of the fair was here along with a live band and a heavy dose of irony.

In one act, clowns dressed as Ronald McDonald lampooned the Chilean obsession with fast food, encouraging a smiling young girl to gorge her way into obesity by presenting her with toys if she ate more burgers. Chilean education took a battering in another act that depicted three skimpily-dressed schoolgirls performing tricks for treats like obedient dogs and jumping through hoops of fire, all in the hope of obtaining a diploma which only one girl could win. Those who didn’t win were left to clean the stage. Even the Pope was fair game in this satire. He was presented as a lecherous illusionist who raised the dead for money or sexual favours.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

The parodies also made their way into the intermission. In a commentary on Santiago shopping habits, circus owner Madame Bavaroa and her family emerged from the wings to sell drinks and snacks from carrier bags, cool boxes and trolleys.

Not all the acts worked so well. It was hard to see the point in a knife-throwing act involving a leather-clad vixon, but the shadow puppet show depicting the evolution of man was a triumph. Modern man emerged as a frenzied fool struggling to balance all his worldly goods aloft until he was finally squished by a giant credit card; the anti-capitalist message summed up succinctly in a heartbeat.

Overall this was a splendid piece of raw theatre and ensemble acting that left the audience dazzled and questioning as they made their way home in the normal world.

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