A triumph of physical comedy, the opening night of the London Clown Festival was unexpected, imaginative and downright delightful in its sheer, unadulterated silliness.
If you are a novice like me, you may be a little bit confused by the concept of a clown festival. Having had no experience of clowns since childhood birthday parties, I was expecting semi-terrifying men in The Joker-style face paint, wearing wigs and squeaky noses, possibly creating balloon animals. But at the LCF, ‘clown’ is interpreted much more broadly: though there is frequent use of extravagant make-up and costume, as well as an emphasis on mime and exaggerated movement, the only real defining characteristic is buffoonery, in its many forms. The festival comprises of a series of comedic performances, some family friendly, taking place over the course of the next two weeks in The Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre, and I strongly urge you to try a show or two- I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
The opening night was effectively a comedy cabaret showcasing a handful of acts from the festival to come. Sat in the Town Hall’s dimly lit basement bar on round tables facing a low stage, there was a buzzy atmosphere in the room: tables were packed out, everyone drinking, laughing, and generally in suitably merry spirits. On an excited whim I decided my friend and I should sit front and centre, which, as someone with an intense fear of audience participation, was an obvious mistake- the only downside to my night was the constant terror of being asked to get involved (introverts, take heed: nestle yourself in a dark crevice).
We were then welcomed to the show by Nancy and Lucy, the hysterical hosts of the evening. With their strapless satin dresses, heavily glittered eyes and red lipstick everywhere but their lips, the pair parodied the typically sexual connotation of the cabaret, throwing themselves around the stage with reckless abandon and accentuating the haphazard, off-the-cuff tone of the acts they introduced.
The six acts themselves were varied, unpredictable, and always amusing. Each performed a snippet of their full-length shows which will appear later in the week (full details below). From Mr Grebe’s (Donall Coonan) hilarious portrayal of a substitute teacher who attempts to teach “everything” (his biology lesson, in which he stunningly metamorphoses into a butterfly, is particularly enlightening), to The Establishment’s (Dan Lees and Neil Frost) sharp, satirical take on current affairs through the eyes of two bumbling old gents, the scope and diversity of the show is truly remarkable. I was particularly impressed by the respective mimed performances of Indra Perneda (Trapped) and Henry Maynard (Tatterdemlion), which are both clever, whimsical, imaginative, evocative and really, really funny- a must-see for any mime sceptics out the.
The whole evening was raucous, entertaining and utterly absurd. The key is to embrace the silliness; it might not be to everyone’s taste, and I’m sure there were certain points in the night at which you could have rolled your eyes or chosen not to laugh. But if you’re in the mood for carefree nonsense, then this might just be the thing for you- I certainly giggled like a child the entire way through.
The London Clown Festival is on at Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre until May 21.
Henry Maynard – Tatterdemlion (Thursday 11th- Saturday 13th May, 7.30pm, Wilton’s Music Hall)
Mr Grebe is Taking Your Class Now (Friday 12th May, 7.45pm, Council Chamber)
Marny Godden is One Tooth (Friday 19th May, 7.45pm, Supper Room)
Inda Pereda – Trapped (Friday 19th May, 9.15pm, Supper Room)
The Establishment – Eton Mess (Saturday 20th May, 7.30pm, Supper Room)
Shesus & The Sisters – Self Service A Resurrection Story (Saturday 20th May, 8.30pm, Council Chamber)