Coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns. Our dynamic duo Adam and Dik took issue both with the horror trope of evil clowns, as well as the simplistic acts one might encounter at children's parties. They wanted to make a "fucked up" clown show and reclaim clownery as a contemporary performance art. Another Nordland production at Jacksons Lane.
Coulrophobia is two clowns locked in a cardboard world. Two live marionettes at the mercy of a particularly malicious Big Brother overseer of a boss, Pucko. A postmodern performance acutely aware of itself, full of somewhat disjointed set pieces, all driven by audience participation and an abundance of cardboard props.
With nods to classic mime, standard toys, and even Punch & Judy, this is clownery for grown-ups. Or perhaps more accurately, this is a play about clownery. A not quite behind the scenes look at a clown show. "Wonky," and "too much talking", as the evaluation given by the LIMF organisers supposedly went, is quite accurate. The clowns obsess over a hardcopy of the script — a fairly thin, repetitive device.
We get to see a dating scene with a gamely pretty one from the audience, a charming birthday present, customers for a make-believe hairdresser's and a whole air guitar house band. "Disappointing nudity" truly delivers, as Pucko the master of puppets, makes the clowns dance and get physical. So much unncessary stuff going on, but it's hard not to smile at the absurdities on display.
It's impossible to take at face value the underlying thesis that clownery needs some kind of rescue. Clever stuff is clever and just feels more fresh if the mainstream perception is dragged through the mud. I have a feeling committed clowns only relish an opportunity to breathe new life into the form. Surely for a clown to be ignored is worse than being abused.
Some of the set pieces fell flat and the extra 15min is not particularly well spent, but the show works as well as the audience lets it. Some of the humour was not for me, sure. But the message that "clownery is about connecting with people" rang quite true, and certainly this kind of a show does its part in making sure the artform stays relevant.