Laugh - Theatre Review

Are you having a laugh? Can a performance artist alone on a black box stage conducting a laughter score tickle the funny bone - apparently so! LAUGH at Salder’s Wells in Islington.

LAUGH consists quite simply of German performance artist Antonia Baehr standing alone on a black box stage for 70 minutes, recreating the sound, shape and peculiarities of the laughter of her friends and family.

For each of her friends’ laughs - or “laughter scores” as she calls them - Baehr takes a slightly different approach.

The first few find her seated and reading the cadences of the laughter score as if from sheet music, conducting herself like an impresario.

Later on a few minimal props are added (a selection of bouncing balls of varying size and shape represent the owner of each laugh and their whimsical characteristics) as well as a small amount of well-executed economical movement.

The piece culminates in Baehr mixing various laughter soundtracks on a set of decks and an audio visual installation where her recorded self challenges her on-stage self to fake genuine laughter.

Laugh is a deceptively simple show that seeks to breed the contagion of laughter. A cult European hit already, this show has been seen on the continent since 2008, with the Sadler’s Wells dates marking its UK debut.

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Baehr is charismatic and laughs with an enviable fluidity and freedom, and sharing an hour with her is a relaxing, life-affirming thing.

I didn’t reach the peaks of laughter myself that I had hoped, but sharing the auditorium with 200 people all searching out opportunities to laugh was an enjoyable thing.

Laugh asks no questions of the audience, and in return provides no answers. But after watching this piece you will find yourself more attuned to the sound of laughter all around you, as I did on the tube journey home, and for a Londoner, that can surely be no bad thing.