Rule of three

Four decades of the comedy theatre group Tricicle come under the spotlight at the Palau Robert venue in Barcelona in a new exhibition that runs until October

“If couples were made up of three members, there wouldn’t be so many divorces!” In May they got the Gonzalo Pérez de Olaguer Prize
The trio began in 1979 when they were still theatre students Tricicle is Catalonia’s longest running comedy theatre company

The three members of the comedy theatre company, Tricicle – Joan Gràcia, Paco Mir and Carles Sans – are understandably proud of the exhibition in the Palau Robert venue in Barcelona, which opened in May and will run until October. Over the past four decades, step by step, the trio have built their own language that was born of mime but that escaped romantic cliché. They combined the observation of the clown with a surreal humour that would eventually win over audiences around the world.

During the presentation of the exhibition, Carles Sans sang the praises of the trio format: “If couples were made up of three members, there wouldn’t be so many divorces!” Now, after more than 40 years together, countless TV appearances and 10 live shows, they have decided to call it a day.

In 2019, Catalonia’s association of theatre companies, Adetca, gave them a lifetime award. Last year they received the National Prize for Culture, and in May they were awarded the Gonzalo Pérez de Olaguer Prize for their lifetime contribution to theatre at the Critics Awards. A day later, they were taking up the CoNCA national arts council’s invitation to give a talk on the language of gesture and humour, an event which also included talks by actor and singer Laura Aubert, clown Guillem Albà, and novelist Eduardo Mendoza. Yet Tricicle know that all the recognition in the world cannot compete with the love of the public. They have always taken the time to greet every audience member at the doors of the theatres they have performed in, and they estimate they have greeted more than four million people.

Mime and improvisation

As the exhibition shows, the trio came up with their repertoire of gags and sketches as they created their live shows. Manicòmic, for example, was born of a series of improvisations. They define themselves as mime clowns. For one of their first shows, Exit, in 1984, they were already talking about the theatre of gesture and action. This show came out of observations of scenes seen at airports, while two years later Slàstic was inspired by sports, pretending that the show was just a big campaign for a sports brand. The demand became so great that, for a time, there were three shops selling the fictitious products of the invented Slastic brand.

In four decades they have had two clown theatre companies and there are many other companies, such as Yllana, for example, that have acknowledged their artistic debt to them. Meanwhile, the influential Vol-Ras mime company emerged a few months after Tricicle was already up and running. Tricicle made its semi-professional debut in 1983 at the Llantiol theatre with Manicòmic. They would later go on to make theatres such as La Villarroel, the Victoria, and the Poliorama their own. They also began to try their hand abroad, and Exit received great praise in the United States, while they also took the show to the Edinburgh comedy festival.

The trio began in 1979, when they were still students at the Barcelona Theatre Institute, although it was not until 1981 that they decided to call themselves Tricicle (Paco Mir would later replace Miquel Rimbau). In fact, Mir himself would later have to be replaced twice (Toni Albà and Ramon Tetas replaced him on tour, each time because of a different foot injury).

In short, Tricicle is the longest running comedy theatre company in Catalonia, even if T de Teatre, for example, have just celebrated their 30th anniversary, showing that the format of four women can be just as successful as that of three men.

feature theatre

A career in six scenes

The exhibition that opened in Palau Robert in May sums up Tricicle’s miles of road and hours of creation, rehearsal and performances of 40 years in just six scenes. The first room covers the chronology of the company, starting with a video showing their debut number ’Soy un truhan’, which appeared on the ’1, 2, 3’ programme in 1983. The bulk of the exhibition deals with the shows, which are presented chronologically in rooms 2, 3 and 4, where you can see some of their most celebrated scenes. There are also confessions, such as admitting that Terrífic was the show they would never perform again (due to the monumental stage set) and that the company’s favourite work is Entretres.

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