Adelaide Fringe 2016
With a powerful baritone, a penchant for pies, and a polished silent comedy performance, Puddles (Mike Geier) constantly kept the audience entertained. The definition of a ‘Potluck’ is a party where everyone brings something to be served, and a genial clown combined with a game audience resulted in a spectacular mix.
Armed with a suitcase full of props and a set of pipes that have to be heard to be believed, Puddles the clown, a towering figure in an ivory suit, took centre stage for an hour of singing covers of classics such as Under Pressure, Dancing Queen and Fix You, and silent comedy that paid homage to vaudeville and commedia dell’arte. Artfully blending the action on the stage with a film screen, the entire act was immersive.
Puddles was also the consummate performer, by not only having a gift for song rearrangement, but also recruiting volunteers to become involved in the show. Whether it was drinking coffee, dancing a waltz, eating a pie, kicking off an impromptu singalong, or summoning Kevin Bacon (and then Kevin Costner) via video, Puddles managed to make the show a truly interactive experience. During a rendition of Sia’s Chandelier, in a PR savvy (and delightfully quirky) move, Puddles would pick up the phones of those recording videos, and then sing directly into the device.
There was no set structure to the act, with songs and sketches unfolding at a constant pace. Rather than being a weakness this was a strength, as the audience was kept alert as to anything that Puddles might do. Half the show was him sitting on the stage, crooning out modern and vintage hits whilst behind him, a screen would show black and white cartoons, photographs, or whatever reel suited the song. The other half was Puddles descending into the audience, picking a chosen few to join him onstage to combine his robust renditions with comedy (waltzing, pie eating, etc.).
Picking volunteers from the audience can often be a disastrous move, as the volunteer may become too scared or self-conscious to play along, or the performer makes a joke at said volunteer’s expense, exacerbating the awkwardness. But Puddles, (who looked like a combination between Pennywise and Pagliacci but was a far friendlier sort), clearly had done this before, picking plucky punters who were delighted to be involved in the act. And they became an integral part of the sketches, with Puddles inviting the audience to applaud them at the end, a kind gesture which was more than obliged.
Puddles’ persona was endearing, and the audience responded with peals of laughter at his act, which was in turns stern, sad, foolish, quietly dignified, and inquisitive. Geier also won the audience over by having frequent references to Adelaide on the screen, showcasing an act that was tailored specifically, rather than just being stock standard. He also has a keen understanding of the power of social media; it’s no wonder he encouraged photos and videos, considering that his Royals cover has been seen 14 million times on YouTube, and was the rendition most recognised by the crowd, greeted with whistles and cheers.
The only downside to the performance wasn’t the fault of Puddles, but rather the performance tent layout. I was seated in the middle of a front-middle row, and even I found it hard to see the stage at times.
Puddles Pity Party – Potluck is less a matter of luck, but is instead a show centred around charm. A clown you should definitely check out whilst you’re in town.