Love them or hate them, clowns have long been a symbol of both childish fun and disturbing creepiness. Fear&Love&Clowns delivers both these aspects with a high-energy performance bristling with fresh spontaneity and creative wit.
In a deliberate rejection of “wanky, self-indulgent theatre", Fear&Love&Clowns utilises the audience as a vital part of the performance itself; even before the lights go down, the red-nosed performers attempt to engage with every ticket-holder as they take to their seat. This active participation is sustained throughout the entire production and serves as the catalyst for some of the biggest and most memorable laughs. Thanks to the cast’s impressive audience control and likeability, this ongoing interaction never feels uncomfortable or forced and actually creates an unexpected communal vibe between the crowd and the clowns.
However, Fear&Love&Clowns quickly proves to be more than a light-hearted romp, as the mood frequently shifts between joyful and dark. This change of tone is usually instigated by the villain of the piece, portrayed with theatrical menace by Michael Gosden. Within the more sombre scenes, the production is able to unpretentiously address some emotive subject matter, such as slavery and loss of innocence, contrasting the predominantly uplifting humour. Throughout the production, clowns Alistair Frearson, Chelsea Zeller, Emil Freund and Tristan Barr display a mastery of physical comedy, but also demonstrate the acting chops necessary to pull off these surprisingly touching moments with integrity.
In both its narrative and stage design, Fear&Love&Clowns favours an impressive simplicity and ingenuity. This ‘back-to-basics’ approach is most effective in its use of props; through the cast’s inventive plotting and movement, clown noses become far more than costume decorations. The lighting and sound design is expertly crafted by Jackson Trickett and Bart Welch respectively, who manage to inject a charisma into their craft comparable to the clowns themselves. The cast and crew openly interact throughout the performance, blending the technical and narrative elements of the production into one cohesive unit.
With a successful balance of innocent humour, red noses and some genuinely dark scenes, Fear&Love&Clowns does exactly what it says on the tin whilst allowing the audience to share the experience in imaginative and exciting ways. Well worth a watch.