“We have a reviewer in tonight” crows a tall, stunning, grotesquely padded and malformed white-painted clown. The audience and I laugh, but I skim the rest of the crowd looking for a sign on a fellow reviewer, trying not to look to guilty. I had never been to a bouffon performance before, but I had heard stories, and knew noone was safe from the jesters onstage.
Skrimshanks is, at points, a deeply engaging freeform performance
On arrival at the door you are asked a question that dictates whether you are placed in the audience, observing, or into one of the circles chalked onstage, like a bizarre cross between a cult and playground hopscotch. A timer is started, and the interrogation of the audience begins. Those onstage can ‘earn’ the right to sit down through interacting with the performers.
Skrimshanks is, at points, a deeply engaging freeform performance. Here the audience is almost as important as the cast, relying heavily on the audience’s participation for its material. Both performers have a very good patter when approaching audience members, being outrageous with the confident ones and chatty with the terrified ones. This loose style allows the show to flow from calm chats, to surreal conversations, to laugh out loud declarations. This kind of performance obviously changes entirely from night to night, depending on the willingness of the audience to take part. I found myself laughing my way through most of the show. Unsurprisingly the comments became very referential to fringe and the arts and the ridiculousness of the entire situation, but there were very on point – making good use of the mad-chalk drawings on the floor, and hopping in and out of terms like “critical acclaim” and “cult status”.
The two performers begin to write a review of their own show during the piece, and they know the flaws with the piece. “It has no structure”, “it’s all on one note”, “they put people onstage and ignore them throughout the entire show”. It is true that doing away with structure can leave the audience feeling like the piece isn’t going anywhere. They do leap in with “I’m bored now, let’s move on” but need to be slightly quicker, else the audience loses that sense of edge. Personally I was disappointed that the mad diagrams on the floor were not used more. It seemed like they were being used as a throwaway joke rather than for something more.
I would recommend this show to people who are not concerned when theatrical convention goes out the window. I was fascinated by these two performers’ ability to turn the most sheepish audience member into a mine of laughs.