La Putyka

Closing time capers

Feature by Colin Chaloner | 18 Aug 2011
  • La Putyka

Cirk La Putyka are a Czech circus troupe who take "la putyka", or "the village pub", as their inspiration. For them, the circus is an opportunity for simple, honest, parochial fun, the kind of thing people get up to in pubs everywhere, but enhanced through a New Circus mix of acrobatics, modern dance, puppetry and live music.

La Putyka is about an amiable landlord trying unsuccessfully to close his bar. As he loves his beer, this is at once the best and the worst job possible for him. He’s a kind of pissed Hamlet, always finding an excuse for one more round and then bemoaning the forces that keep him from closing. There’s been a real effort to integrate the clowning, puppetry, acrobatics and music into the narrative, and they all serve to develop the comic potential of the situation.

A particular high point is a phenomenal bell-ringing sequence where the band bully the landlord into creating an ever-rising, ever more precarious tower of drinks. As they summon him again and again the bells merge into an ethereal harmony, shifting the mood and captivating the audience. In fact the band are probably the company’s best feature, employing a listenable and versatile mix of glam, punk and folk influences in every scene.

Cirk’s marketing presents the company as groundbreaking innovators seeking to reinvigorate popular live entertainment through innovative multidisciplinary performance. This is definitely overstating it. The vast bulk of the show is still insufferably tame - either old-school clowns rolling about with big grins or a mustachioed Lothario and a girl in a spangly leotard bouncing on a trampoline in an effort to be saucy. But they’re good at what they do, so if that’s your bag, then go for it.