Adelaide Fringe 2012
A fairly unbelievable premise sets up this hour of clownish desperation in which Alice Mary Cooper’s alter ego, Ms Clown, steps in as emergency proxy to deliver an academic lecture on post-modern theatre. Cooper’s clown is an endearing waif in white underwear, white tulle ruff and red nose but she teeters on the edge of performed failure and laboured performance.
Clown Lights Stage follows the classic clown scenario—sweet innocent takes on an impossible task so that the show may go on. After an ambiguous false start in which Cooper exits in search of her lecture notes (I ask myself “Is she acting?”), the sound of a car crash heralds the entrance of Cooper’s clown persona looking like Pierrot dressed by Target. She does in fact carry a red Target “reusing this makes me happy” bag that she has rescued from her unfortunate predecessor. She then proceeds to try and use its contents to explain the academic propositions, which are being projected onto the screen next to her.
Her character is both resourceful and ridiculous in her attempt to develop content from the chapter titles. In commedia style, Cooper’s explanation of “the transference of energy between performer and audience” snowballs from the reading of the energy content of a Nutella jar to a rather messy bomb defusion. There are many French references (which may stem from the fact that Cooper studied acting in Paris for a year after graduating from University of Melbourne) including the amusing reworking of a famous Piaf song into a tragedy about baguettes and croissants.
While I found myself smiling a lot through this hour show, which was dripping (literally, in 37 degree heat that day) with whimsy, I think the venue let her down. Had this been staged in an actual lecture theatre, the scenario upon which the gag was based, the displaced clown in the academic spotlight, might have been more successful. As it was, the unforgiving concrete desolation of the abandoned department store cum makeshift “venue” that is the Tuxedo Cat, leaves no doubt that we are in the theatre fringes (or at worst about to be herded into a shipping container bound for the white slave trade). Cooper clearly has the potential to develop her physical comedy beyond coy mugging and the eating of tea bags. She is endearing and at a beginning of a career with many possibilities.