Theatre preview: Clown Cabaret
Clowning about: the return of the red nose
Despite its British association with big-top circus, clowning is recognised across the world as a serious, if often hilarious, strand of physical theatre. In Edinburgh, a group of dedicated clowns, including Tim Licata (Plutot La Vie) and Melanie Jordan (Clownstepping) have banded together to promote the diverse range of Scottish clowns. From the familiar, vulnerable comic through grotesque routines influenced by commedia dell’arte to the aggressive bouffon, their scratch cabaret nights showcase technical brilliance and imagination.
Traditional clown theatre often emphasises the absurdity of human ambition: a clown is vulnerable, exaggerating familiar foibles yet evoking sympathy. Even when clowns attack, or follow the bouffon path, which addresses the audience’s vulnerability, they are relatively gentle and deliver the truth with a smile. The format of the cabaret – short, concise sketches – presents the wide range of styles currently working across Scotland.
While Ruxy Cantir’s Gregor is grotesque and provocative – he even engages in fights and romance with the audience – Melanie Jordan’s clowning captures the tension between love and duty. Lewis Hetherington adapts Kate Bush’s famous Wuthering Heights dance (perhaps following Peter McMaster’s adaptation of the novel) to parody masculinity and notions of fame and nostalgia. These brief vignettes argue not only for the vitality of Scotland’s clowning scene, but also for the medium’s ability to engage, critique and explore all areas of human experience.
Clown Cabaret: Special Edition at Conflux's Surge Festival on 30 Jul then Tron Theatre in Glasgow, 29 Sep--1 Oct. Bouffon Scratchings 25 Jun Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh.