Adelaide Fringe 2012
Justin Butcher, under the direction of Guy Masterson delivers a commendable hour or so long monologue of Scaramouche Jones, the 100 year old clown who, as he awaits death, retires his red nose and clown shoes while looking back of his life adventures. It is a dark story flickering with shades of laughter as the tale unfolding is one of a sad and treacherous story filled with struggle, despair and a clinging to hope as Scaramouche longs to be on England soil.
The show begins with a silhouette of Scaramouche given his final performance before stumbling into his tent-like home. Drained, exhausted and ready to bid the world farewell, Scaramouche reflects on his century here on Earth and takes the audience on a journey of his many adventures.
Dividing his life in two parts, the first fifty years tells the development of the clown while the final fifty Scaramouche is the clown…we begin at the beginning of life. Scaramouche, born of a Trinidadian gypsy whore, is told by his mother that his unusually white face comes from his father, an Englishman. And with that, Scaramouche clutches to this truth as his life’s hope. One day he’ll meet his father, one day he’ll make England his home.
Our journey sends us through Africa, Egypt, Europe and then to a Nazi concentration camp where Scaramouche is made to work as a grave digger. Using his clown skills, Scaramouche would try to put a smile on the children’s faces who were facing the firing squad by miming a monstrously funny death scene, illustrating what awaits them, riding them of fear and showing them that soon they will be free. This attempt to somehow help the children is met with negativity and Scaramouche is imprisoned. Eventually, when the case is re-examined, Scaramouche is released and sent to England.
One of the most powerful scenes was Scaramouche finally receiving his passport. Requiring a surname to enter the country, Scaramouche adopts the surname of the immigration officer and then with a simply sliding of the passport across the table, Scaramouche is finally free and finally home.
Relying on nothing more that a basic set and simple props, I was impressed by how Butcher worked the space and utilized what was available to him. The lighting was just enough; even working his disrobing into the text was effortless. As multiple characters are introduced into the story, Butcher’s ability to play two or more characters at once is a true test of his undoubtedly high performance skill.
Although this is probably one of the most compelling monologues I have seen, it took a while for the show to gain its momentum as I found the first section of the show to be delivered quite fast and at time inaudible. Sitting towards the back, I was lost at times until the pace of the piece picked up and then I was there all the way.