As the Prague Fringe Festival winds up, it’s easy to realize how many shows were under the radar and get passed over for larger, more popular one. Or, if you have scrambled to see as many shows as possible, you find yourself fortunate to have caught one of the more off-the-radar gems of Fringe. ‘Hospital Sofa,’ starring and written by Loredana Acquaviva and Daniel Pearson from Flying Beards productions, is that very show.
Performing at Divadlo Kampa, ‘Hospital Sofa’ is a mix of sublime physical comedy, surreal dance sequences, Beckett-esque dialogue, and undeniable chemistry. While the play in general needs some tightening up, especially when it comes to the overall (but a touch overlong) brilliant song, dance, and physical numbers, it is very much an original performance showcasing our lead actors’ talents. In fact, if not for the vivaciousness and pure energy in each sequence, you could easily be forgiven for wanting our slapstick duo to just get on with the show. Fortunately, Pearson and Acquaviva have a sense of when to wrap up and move on.
Incidentally, a costume mishap during the second half was handled by Pearson with such aplomb it deserved applause all on its own. This also speaks very highly of Pearson as an actor, who knew that the show must, beard and all, go on.
The sofa in question is tossed from the high window of a local mental hospital. This action, while told and not shown, claims the life of Bibi’s friend. Bibi himself, done with flair by Pearson, is homeless though unbroken, living on the streets of an unnamed city. Bobo, played with similar gusto by Acquaviva, is his new companion by proxy. After a clever and comic sketch with a folding map and the tale of the ill-fated friend and furniture, their fate as companions and squatters is sealed.
Bibi, still in shock over the random loss of his old pal Jakub, is convinced that Death is coming for them, and soon. In fact, not only is Death coming for them, but he is coming at exactly five o’clock. Not wanting to face mortality alone, Bibi drafts a fairly enthusiastic Bobo along for the wait. Bobo’s willingness to go along with this plan lies in the belief that he will be reincarnated as a dog and therefore have a much better Next Life.
What follows is that aforementioned Beckett-inspired element that begins to give the show purpose and direction: Estragon and Vladimir they are not but, the bright snippets of Godot-like conversation are well-timed, and say much with very little. We not hear about who they became homeless, what trials they face outside hunger, about family or any desire to change their life outside death. But, their musings on that spectral figure to say a great deal about them as individuals, fearing life on the streets will go on and on without relief. When Death fails to come after a year, the realization that life will and can go on, is subtle and affecting.
A revelation about Bobo’s true identity in the second half adds another layer to what could have been a very straightforward play. What follows is rather moving, even sweet, without being patronizing. It is in these sequences that Bobo and Bibi really come into their own and we find ourselves rooting for the oddest of odd couples.
So, if you want to laugh, sigh, tap your feet, wear a false beard, and see some true comic talent at work, take one last chance to see Bobo and Bibi at Divadlo Kampa. They’ll be waiting.
Rachael Collins, Prague Film & Theater Center