Sitting and watching a stranger laughing for an hour and ten minutes may not sound like a groundbreaking evening at the theatre, but everyone loves a good laugh, don’t they? Whether yours is a chortle, a cackle or a guffaw, Antonia Baehr’s latest work, aptly entitled Laugh and currently performing at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio, has something for everyone.
More than a mirthful evening of light-hearted entertainment, Laugh is a novel exploration of laughter, its meaning and musicality. Known as ‘the one who laughs’, in lieu of presents, Baehr asked her friends and family to provide her with ‘laughter scores’ for her birthday. In return she received, musical scores, sound bites, movement motifs, recordings and the suggestion she composed a full length laughter opera, in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach. The latter she is still working on, the rest she combined to create this shrewd and innovative work.
Shrieking and snorting, wheezing and whooping, Baehr single handedly investigates the undulations and intricacies of laughter whilst creating visions of giggling school girls and cartoon villains, throaty old men and wicked witches with her vocals. She shows us that laughter can be sinister and mocking, hysterical and childish and all that is in between.
But is it funny? Well, no, not exactly, but laughter really is contagious and within minutes chuckles and snorts crack through the audience, quickly infesting others around them. I would defy even the most serious not to leave this skilful, feel good work without a smile on their face.
By Jennifer Teale
The final performance of Laugh is tonight at 8pm. Lilian Baylis Studio is next door to Sadler's Wells on Rosebery Avenue, EC1. Tickets: £15.