Brighton Fringe 2008
A Sustained Note of Fury
Venue: Komedia Studio, Brighton
Festival: Brighton Fringe
Otto the Clown Jnr and his agent, wife Adele, return; hopefully in triumph, to Stubblefields Circus currently located on the outskirts of Lowestoft. A Circus, which in an uncharacteristic reversal of an old cliché, they had run away from 19 years previously. Otto’s reappearance has been precipitated by the death of his legendary clown father, Otto Ronaldi Snr, into whose oversize shoes he would love to step. This homecoming though is not the jubilant success Otto Jnr had imagined and as a result of his frustrated, thwarted dreams, his world and marriage are brought perilously close to the brink of destruction.
The sense of failure and disenchantment that pervades this story is evident from the opening lines, as our protagonist, returning to the spotlight, stutters and frets his way through an unsentimental eulogy to his dead Papa. And this disappointment, reflected throughout the twist, turns and claustrophobic revelations of the plot, is skillfully echoed in the production. The stage, representing the caravan home of the dead man, is littered with the debris of his life and we watch with a slight sense of horror, as the characters pick and admire and scorn their way through these dispiriting belongings; from magazines, to circus props, to fan mail and to finally used underwear.
The play is dominated by the relationship between father and son, though Otto Senior’s physical presence is as noticeably absent from the stage as it has been from Junior’s life, but it is through the relationship between husband and wife and, in a Brechtian way, the audience, that we learn about the overwhelming influence the older clown has had on his child’s career.
Under the expert direction of Johnny Worthy the performers, Robert Cohen, also the writer, and Peta Taylor; were precise and detailed, and brought out both the comedy and pathos of their characters and kept the rigorous well written script alive. The play has some great comic moments and lines, though running at just over two hours it did feel slightly too long at times and maybe some judicious pruning would serve to highlight the comedy further.
This is an entertaining and insightful piece which illustrates the bitter sweet experience of human partnerships be they filial, marital or business.