I am huge fan of one of Brazil’s funniest character comedians, Marcelo Médici. He is a hugely gifted and versatile actor, and I have in fact mentioned him a few times in previous articles, in my series on the soap opera Joia Rara, which was based on Buddhism, and also in the absurdist comedy series Vai Que Cola.
When I was living in London I would regularly see live comedy, often once a week, which was easily possible with the number of venues around Kingston, Twickenham and Richmond-upon-Thames. So you can imagine how excited I was at having the chance to see Medici’s one-man show Cada Um com seus Pobrema which loosely translates as Everyone has their Ploblems (sic.).
In this show, which was written by Médici and which has been running for some years now, he plays eight different characters, a huge artistic feat in itself, given the rapid transformations between characters which takes place on stage. Médici starts in scintillating form with a cleaning lady who tells us of her woes of working for the rich and famous.
She leaves, and we are then treated to the most famous soliloquy of Hamlet, but given as this is delivered by the most insecure actor with unfeasible fear of audiences, he soon collapses in panic and he explains his predicament to us.
All around me people were doubling up in stitches, guffawing raucously, delighting in the ridiculousness. I love talking about the British love for absurdity in Brazil, especially with fans of British comedy, as often to reach this level of absurdity you need a huge amount of intelligence and wit. Médici has this in droves, and in fact we discover interwoven threads of narrative between the characters, as we meet the spiritual medium who the cleaning lady had visited.
This is also comedy with a biting edge, with commentary on the poor, the state of education, the vacuity of celebrity, and we even get to hear from a golden lion tamarin, a beautiful small new world monkey who discusses the extinction of its species in Brazil.
The show is also very physical, with Médici coming down into the audience a number of times, for example for give readings and advice as the medium.
Now here is the thing though. Should I write a review of Cada Um com seus Pobrema or not. I’d love to tell you more about the awe I have for a person who is able to captivate an entire theater of people, holding their attention, drawing them in to an imaginary world, creating character after character, each with their accents, dialects, idiosyncrasies and silly laughs. I’d love to talk about the lived experience of this love comedy, far from technology, delivered with soul. But it somehow seems dishonest.
I thought that I would be able to understand far more than in fact I was able, even given that I am now able to converse fairly well in Portuguese and even giving lectures and presenting in Portuguese. We had seats right at the back of the auditorium, but in fact a couple asked if we could swap, in order that their group be able to sit together, and they handed us seats in row F, placing us incredibly close to the stage.
And what is worse, often the lights were on, allowing Médici to fully interact with the audience. It must be strange for some with this level of mastery to notice some bloke in row F not rolling around in laughter. This type of comedy is one of the most difficult forms of a foreign language to master, especially with the speed of delivery, the slang, the idioms, and the cultural-specific references. I was sitting there wondering if Marcelo Médici was looking at me thinking why did that guy even bother to come if he wasn’t going to enjoy it.
So to review or not to review Marcelo Médici, that is the problem. In the taxi home and also over breakfast Maria kept filling me in on many of the anecdotes I had missed, many of which I found funny immediately, and many which still had to be explained a little, such as the play on words, or the references to aging television actors.
I think all I can do in this article is celebrate comedic genius, and a level of artistic mastery that is fully possible to appreciate when one is in the presence of it, even if much did go over my head. But there were parts I was catching, especially the thespian who spoke in the most regular manner, and also his brother, who has the most infectious guffaw laughing at his own jokes. Brilliant.
I believe this show is about to tour other cities in Brazil. And when it does come back to São Paulo, we will be going again. This time I’ll be more in on the joke and subtitles won’t be needed.