Barrera is what a clown AA meeting would look like. Two heartbroken clowns have lost their best friend – a red balloon – in a bang. Being a clown is not easy. Even when grieving, you are expected to be funny. So they succumb to the bottle and try to stagger on with their lives. Each memory with the balloon plunges them deeper into despair. Boy, these two are not happy clowns.

Drunken stupor and splashing booze around the stage raised a few eyebrows amongst mums who had to explain this to the youngest audience members

The Dutch performers Quintijn Relouw and Aleksej Ovsiannikov are fans of physical theatre and the Spanish tradition of tragic clownery, which they studied in a Bilbao theatre school for a month. Their trip resulted in Barrera, which means barrier in Basque. I suppose at a deeper level, Barrera is a study of barriers people build when dealing with grief.

We have two young performers and a tragic story of loss. What could possibly go wrong? For one, Barrera can’t decide whether it is meant for children or adults. Parts of the story and the way it was delivered seemed to be aimed at adults. Drunken stupor and splashing booze around the stage raised a few eyebrows amongst mums who had to explain this to the youngest audience members. Then again, the clownery and tricks performed were clearly aimed at children, although sudden loud bangs and bursting balloons didn’t go down so well.

The performers confessed to being big Oliver & Hardy fans and the comparison is apparent; one of them being big and bulky and the other one small and skinny. But in terms of presentation skills and emotional connection with the audience, these two are still in their early stages. Everything in the performance was delivered in a hurry, as there was simply too much material for a 30-minute show, especially when the audience is mainly children. I also think that a £26 family ticket is too expensive for a half an hour fringe show.

Barrera has a noble idea of breaking through red noses, white face paint and wacky wigs to evoke genuine emotion. Perhaps it is a cultural difference, but this clearly wasn’t what the families coming to the show were expecting to see. They wanted funny clowns, not grief-stricken alcoholics.

Reviews by Johanna Makelainen

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The Blurb

BARRERA is the story of two clowns in mourning. After the death of their best friend, the clowns try to continue living, but what is the point? They still do their performance with card tricks and balloons, but all the glitter and glamour seems far gone. It’s a tough job, but the best they can do is blunder on, through drunken dancing and buckets full of tears, each mishap plunging the audience further into mirth, memory, and pathos.