Love of a Clown

The setting is Paris, 1900. A white-faced clown recalls his experiences of life and love, the places he visited, the people he met and the choices he made. I knew this much before I entered the production. I was not prepared, however, for the achingly beautiful tale in front of me and the sad conclusion that lay in store.Narrated entirely by Jacques (an excellent Chris Kinahan), we are taken on a journey of a man suffering from loneliness and a desire to be wanted and appreciated. It is a beautiful story and one that is told with utmost sincerity and truthfulness. Kinahan's voice has a real lyrical quality to it that merges perfectly with the text, slowly casting a spell of enchantment over his audience until they hang on his every word. He hits the phrasing and pace of the production perfectly, balancing carefully the combination of being in command of his audience, yet also portraying a man struggling to cope.Whilst on tour with the circus we are introduced to a range of characters including the grieving widow, Madame Muscat, circus proprietor, Francois, and an affectionate pup, Charlie. Muscat is particularly striking: her story marked the beginning of the tears for me and also propels the overall tale along. All three characters are at the hands of puppeteer Jake Linzey, who shows remarkable dexterity and skill in manipulating these without ever detracting from Kinahan. It brings a highly physical element to the production and allows Kinahan to fully interact with the other characters rather than just talking about them; something that makes us care so much more about Jacques and his tale.The writing, also by Linzey, is both natural and poetic, simple and true. It unfolds beautifully without becoming stilted, and always remains true to the voice of Jacques. The production avoids monotony by breaking up the dialogue with physical demonstrations of Jacques's clowning techniques, and the portrayal of the acrobat on the trapeze was particularly well done through its simplicity. Throughout the production everything is bound together by Ben Lawrence's beautiful underscore of haunting melodies that add weight and colour. This is a company that truly understands theatricality and how to both entertain and move an audience to great success.I do not want to reveal too much about the last third of the piece, except to say on the night I saw it a good portion of the audience were visibly moved and remained in their seats long after the production finished, unwilling to break the magic of the performance. The final image of Kinahan sitting there, his white clown face streaked with tears will remain embedded in my mind for quite a while and nothing at this year's Festival has moved me quite as much. Reading back over this, I have tended to concentrate more on the tragic aspects of the production. There is much to smile about too, with some nice comic touches woven in before the tale hurtles towards its conclusion. This is a truly dazzling debut from a new company and one that is definitely worth keeping an eye out for in the future. Catch this before the end of the Festival and I defy you to be dry-eyed at the end.

Reviews by Damian Sandys

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The Blurb

Paris, 1900: a city full of promise for an ambitious young clown. Experience enchanting puppetry and traditional clown technique. Enjoy his uplifting story of love, life and loss - before the joke gets old. www.backhandtheatre.com

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