Never have I had a more desperate demand to give a five star review. Accidentally outing myself as there to ‘report’ on the show, emotional wreck and Estonian witch healer clown Julia Masli began tearing off her clothes in a bid to secure that sweet accolade of success. It was hilarious, intense and somehow convincing — though upon saying yes, she immediately burst into tears, pouring vodka into her eyes before slipping on her own self-made puddle.

Credit: Mark Dawson

This was a high point in a variety night of many sloppy shenanigans, kicking off the London Clown Festival at Soho Theatre (12th-17th June) which features a host of performers from recently inaugurated BGT clown king, Viggo Venn to Fringe favourite The Establishment. It’s an exciting lineup and this was a sufficiently chaotic and absurd way to start the proceedings.

Hosted by upbeat Mexicana princess, Paulina Lenoir, a series of acts tumble from behind the backcloth to fill the space with outlandish acts and make us feel the joy and playfulness of children once again — a sure fire sign that things are working. While the laughability of the set pieces does vary, the spirit of failure and simply being on stage is sufficient to keep the proverbial plate spinning, and the impromptu structure of the night makes it feel genuinely live and exciting. Lenoir and Masli’s double act is ridiculous, with the latter coming out in part two (eyes now bleeding) only to try and steal the role, outfit and identity of Paulina. It’s utterly mad, and the line between planned and improvised is wonderfully hard to spot.

Credit: Mark Dawson

Festival co-producer Dan Lees also shines as front-man of a Burton-esque, flip-flop wearing clown band, donning a poppy yellow suit and peppering his crooning song with mutters and shouts. This blend of guitar and garbled expletives is a wonderful mashup of order and chaos, accompanied by deadpan trumpist Sarah Wolfenden and an ever-so-sweet, ever-so-scared Tom Penn on double bass. His expression of gentle and terrified awe captures the childlike wonder of the whole experience.

Credit: Mark Dawson

Thrown from the lightness of the acts’ content to the emotional exposure of the *plentiful* audience interaction, the night is a rousing barrage of laughter and feels. Some performances are definitely tighter and more engaging than others, and the set begins to lose steam towards the end — though I left feeling full of the delights of an evening well spent.

If you want a polished show with a clear cut start, middle and end, this might not be for you, but in honour of a style that embraces the freedom of humanity’s wonderful fragility, this is a lovely way to embrace the mess.

Credit: Mark Dawson

Sadly just a one off, it’s lucky that tonight only heralds far more laughs to come in the next week. Definitely worth checking out! – Find out more about the festival here!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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