How It’s New York:  It’s part of the 1st irish Festival, which is a New York Festival of Irish Theatre.
How It’s Irish: The company are Irish, and the Irish Times has called it “The greatest vegetable circus on earth.”

Cirque de Légume, from Sligo, presents  two off-beat clowns.  The one-hour romp gives us a sort of sweet guy (Jaimie Carswell) and a nervous, occasionally fierce woman (Nancy Trotter Landry) in a puffy sleeved Green dress-romper, both with red noses, going through a series of sketches that use vegetables.  If Cirque de Soleil  is  circus of the sun filled with dance and acrobatics, Cirque de Légume gives us a clown ringmaster and a clown circus gal who perform with vegetables.  The vegetables play dogs, knives, aphrodisiacs.

When they enter, marching and making “ta-da” gestures with their arms, they look terrified.  After each little bit they say “how about that?” to beg for applause.  This is all done with a European-ish accent (French?), for some reason (Spanish? director Pablo Ibarluzea studied at El Timbal in Barcelona, all three trained at École Jacques Lecoq in France).  The accent supports their air of people not at home, begging for approval.

It all adds up to something silly, funny, and decidedly odd.  And messy.  At one point Carswell, pretending to be the Horse of Spain (he does this very well) is fed carrot after carrot by Trotter.  He chews and spits and chews and spits.  There’s carrot all over the floor!  At times lettuce and onion go flying around the small house at 59E59.  If you’re wearing something that stains, sit in the back.

Jaimie makes Dusty the dog—really a head of lettuce—who Jaimie makes roll over, play dead (leaves fall), and jump.  This is just as endearing and dumb as it sounds (Dusty later comes to a bad end, and the audience all went “aww.”) Red peppers are knives that they “throw” (part of the fun is the characters’ badness at hiding their tricks).  They play cucumber instruments to the bebop music; he hypnotizes her with a Beet (it looked like one to me anyway), into playing a chicken, a mouse.  She gets tangled up in the chair (the set is just two nhanging red curtain paneld and a wooden chair) as the Seal of Poland, who, when asked to speak, says “arrr”.  Sometimes she gets carried away in her bug-eyed intensity and Jaimie has to mutter “it’s finished, it’s me.”

The 55-minute show, making its U.S. debut, has been a hit at the Dublin Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, among others, and you can see why.  Its insouciance and weirdness makes it a pefect Fesival fit (particularly a summer Festival).  Despite its creativity it was also repetitive. Hee’s loose and eager to please, she’s tight and highly strung, and they need each other.  After each little bit they chant “Cirque de Légume” and do a chest bump.  There’s also a hint of a love story.   I got a little tired of it before it ended., but children giggled throughout.  And it ends on a hilarious low of slapstick, with an onion striptease that includes “swimming” in the debris on the floor.  

Presnted by Cirque de Légume as part of the 1st IrishFestival.  At 59E59, 59 E. 59th. St., bet. Park and Madison, NYC.  Sept. 11- Oct. 2, Tues.- Thurs. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8:30 p.m.; Sat 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Sun. 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets at Ticket Central, 212-279-4200 or at the theatre’s site.

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.