Manipulate: Clown Cabaret Special Edition (4 stars)

Manipulate review: Clown Cabaret Special Edition

Lisette Boxman brings down the house with her unique 'breast act' / credit: Elly White

You say it best, when you say nothing at all . . . . Clown Cabaret proves less is more when it comes to talking

The evolution of clowning over the past few decades has brought many changes to the contemporary circus world - but the beating heart of this artform remains the same: body language. Often, the most effective performers utter not a single word during their performance, yet talk straight to our hearts.

As with all mixed bills, the Clown Cabaret that rounded off this year's Manipulate Festival had its high, and not-so-high points – and to these eyes, the wow moments all came without dialogue.

Ruxandra Cantir was born in Romania, trained in the US and now lives in Scotland – but it doesn't matter where she is geographically, her home is on stage. Cantir's character, 'Parr' is too sensitive for this big, noisy world, and just wants to be left alone.

She enters the space tentatively, an aghast white face communicating everything we need to know about her inner torment - and when a telephone bursts into life, the harsh ringtone nearly finishes her off. That's pretty much all that happens in this short but sweet sketch, and yet Cantir delivers a masterclass in how poignancy and hilarity can exist hand-in-hand.

Pinar Polar as 'Bat Lady' is equally communicative with her silence. An obsession with the nocturnal animal, and the story of Dracula, leads to a routine packed with wing references, in her costume, props and movement - including an increasingly funny leitmotif involving the fluffing of her chaotic green hair.

Calum MacAskill's suitably costumed 'Sheep' act goes from endearing and cute to horrifying yet compelling, as wool is peeled away to reveal blood-coloured sinews, and Cooper and Biff's 'Misleading Man' takes the ubiquitous action hero and cleverly turns him into something altogether ridiculous.

But the woman responsible for bringing down the house at this year's Clown Cabaret, is Lisette Boxman (pictured) with what can only be described as a 'breast act'. Arriving dressed only in knickers, tights and shoes, Boxman has to find a way to pull on a stylish red dress without revealing too much of her ample bosom to the crowd.

The result is inspired, hilarious and utterly unique. No doubt her breasts would complain if they could, as they're squished, squashed, pulled and pushed in a bid to keep the nipples hidden, but the crowd love it. And, once the dress is finally on, Boxman keeps on giving with her rendition of The Lonely Goatherd, aided by surely the most unusual use of an audience volunteer in the history of theatre.

Reviewed at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Clown Cabaret Special Edition

A fantasia of becoming an action hero? Can the show always go on, no matter how full one’s hands get? Perhaps a champion will emerge if the fates allow? Or will dark temptations vampirishly vacuum the dreams of a clown? And scatter them sheepishly before an ominous telephonic tone? What does it all mean…!?!

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