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.
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.
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.
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.
The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE