m3, A NoSpace Odissey
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 24, 2010
TeatroStageFest brings indie theater from throughout the Spanish-speaking world to New York every summer; their mission is to celebrate diversity in all its forms in a truly accessible and engaging format. Case in point: m3, A No Space Odissey (Una Odisea SinEspacio), a solo show created and performed by Fernando Sanchez-Cabezudo, who hails from Madrid, Spain.
This is a wordless clown show about a man who, unable to afford a reasonably-sized apartment, finds himself renting a one-cubic meter box for his living quarters. (He's not alone; in one wonderful multimedia moment, we see that our hero is one of thousands residing in a grid of m3 apartment/compartments.)
For the metrically impaired, let me insert here that a meter is just over three feet, which means that our man is trying to live in a room about 39 inches in each direction. He's not a short man, so he must always stoop or sit; taking off his shoes becomes problematic because he doesn't really have room to stretch out his legs. And that first-thing-in-the-morning stretch? There are walls in the way, on either side.
m3 explores the challenges that come from living in such a cramped space, both obvious—how does one take a bath under these conditions?—and not so obvious. The attitude is clownish and childlike, for the most part, a blend of Chaplin and Mr. Bean as our hapless protagonist tries to take control of his environment and always fails, whether his opponent is a determined and unswattable fly or a vacuum cleaner. Sanchez-Cabezudo, limber and graceful and constantly animating himself physically and with a succession of silly noises and mutterings, is abetted by exceptional multimedia by Paula Anta Gutierrez; sequences depicting an impromptu party and, especially, the horrifying fare on TV, are among the show's highlights.
Childlike though this character is, I'm not sure that m3 is for kids. There's plenty of silly stuff, but the prevailing mood is actually somewhat dark and the satiric commentary tends toward the political and the existential. When we first meet him, our hero has a pipe in his mouth and a bowler hat on his head, suggesting a link to the enigmatic explorations of surrealist Rene Magritte. And the fluid way that objects and concepts morph throughout m3 brings to mind the notion of magic realism.
It's a cockeyed sensibility, and a thoroughly physicalized one. Its lack of dialogue makes it a show that bridges cultures (there are some words spoken in voice-over as well as many shown in the media segments; here they're helpfully rendered in English but I imagine that Sanchez-Cabezudo and his team have versions available in other languages). I've certainly never seen a clown show quite like it in all my years of theatre-going, which is why I am grateful for TeatroStageFest and look forward to many more years of their inspiringly mind-expanding programming.