Morris Panych shows abound in this city. In the past few years alone, we’ve had Vigil, The Dishwashers, The Government Inspector, Habeas Corpus, Take Me Out, Amadeus, Sweeny Todd and The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl. After What Lies Before Us, The Overcoat is his second Canstage show of the year – and it’s only February! He has become a theatre artist of a very divisive nature – some people love his whimsical physicality and often over-the-top sensibilities, and some can’t stand it. But if you have to see (and enjoy) one Morris Panych show, The Overcoat is surely that show.
His most acclaimed and internationally-recognized work, The Overcoat is an adaptation of the Gogol short story of the same name about a man who acquires a beautiful coat that changes his life, first for the better and then for the worse. There is no dialogue in the show, and the story is told entirely through dance and physicality, and told well. This show has all the broadness and tropes one has come to expect from a Panych show (including opening credits projected in overture; a convention many audience members are growing weary of), but located within a world in which they amaze rather than cloy.
Each individual performer creates unique and fully-realised characters through only the use of their costumes and their bodies, and the precision of the show’s timing is truly wonderful. There is not one slack moment onstage; Panych has created a sort of theatrical perpetual motion machine with constant, dazzling movement. This is exactly the kind of theatre he should be making.