Dazzled by the title, I was expecting Clown Town Cabaret to be a night of physical comedy and clowns. However, if you look beyond the label, the clues are in the blurb: ‘late night comedy cabaret’, ‘nonsense’, ‘absurd’. Unfortunately, as the evening wore on (with a couple of exceptions) it became clear that there was little substance to the material but plenty of substance (abuse) in the audience.
Javier Costales performs an accomplished set: his musings on whistling noses, interplanetary linguistics, onanism and oral sex follow on seamlessly as he treats us to some well thought out and entertaining material.
Our compére, Mr Dinner, sports an Elvis-inspired white silk cape with an ludicrously high collar. An affable chap, he entertains throughout the evening with a mix of “hood-based humour” and undemanding audience challenges. Having set the tone for the evening, there follows a succession of stand-ups, duos and bizarre individuals who, for the most part, displayed an over-reliance on costume and the nonsensical. Highlights include the egg box adorned Mr Harris, our waiter for the night, who guides us through the hilarious menu as he takes orders from the audience in a gravelly American accent. Combining edible items with absurdly incongruous nouns the menu choices alone are brilliantly funny but he goes deeper into the bizarre with each qualifying question he asks his ‘customers’. Questions such as “How wet do you want your garden beef?” are interspersed with the more mundane “do you want an egg on top?” drawing us back into his restaurant of linguistic anarchy. In contrast, stand-up comic Javier Costales performs an accomplished set: his musings on whistling noses, interplanetary linguistics, onanism and oral sex follow on seamlessly as he treats us to some well thought out and entertaining material.
Less successful acts include Audrey and Alan, a gun-toting granny and her son. This act relied on the premise that an aggressive and abusive elderly woman is shocking and was undermined by unconvincing characterisation, whilst Alan was unable to hold the audience’s interest except when cajoling him to snog his fictional mother. The grand finale came in the form of Phil Kay. Kay’s greatest achievement is that he manages to take the drunken bawdy antics of the evening, until this point confined to the audience, onstage. In a draw-dropping spectacle, with his shirt over his head, his jeans at his ankles and his modesty held together by a discarded Mini Cheddars packet, he strips for the benefit of members of a hen party. Thus worked into a frenzy, in a moment either of bravery or madness, he invites them on to the stage and is lifted by two girls whilst chanting “Hen party! Hen party!”
Clown Town Cabaret has got the costume and absurdity side of clowning down reasonably well, but without the skill and craft of physical theatre it’s like someone forgot to fill the squirty flower with water. The talents of the delightful Mr Ben Harris and the charismatic Javier Costales shine through this carnival of mayhem and to be fair, Clown Town Cabaret does what it says on the tin - if you’re after a raucous night out which allows you to get tanked up and take part in (or even take over) the action, this might be for you.