CirqueComedyReviewSouth West

Coulrophobia – Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Writers: Dik Downey, Adam Blake and John Nicholson
Director: John Nicholson
Reviewer: Joan Phillips

Clowns have been in the news recently thanks to the so-called ‘creepy clown craze’. With a title like Coulrophobia, the dictionary term for an abnormal fear of clowns, you might be in danger of getting the wrong idea for this show.
Despite the title, and the not too comforting picture in the promotion materials of two slightly distressed and sinister looking clowns trapped in a cardboard box, this is one of the purest and funniest evenings of the year so far.

tell-us-block_editedCoulrophobia is produced and performed by Pickled Image, a Bristol-based theatre company specialising in puppetry. Add to this, two clowns, Dik and Adam, played by Dik Downey and Adam Blake, and this extraordinary, unique show takes clowning beyond where you have ever seen it before and possibly further than you might think it could ever go.

Our two clowns are stuck in their cardboard world. All seems slightly creepy and uneasy, magnified by the booming sinister voice-over of Poco, the clown master, who seems to be able to control their movements and thwart their dreams of escape.

Clothed in hessian and old sack with huge clown shoes, Dik and Adam do their best to escape their world by trying to swap with members of the audience. With clown face-paint, crazy hair and enlarged noses, despite the grotesque appearance, our two loveable performers take us through 70 minutes of slapstick scenes as they attempt to execute an escape plan.

Audience participation is a big part of this show and those who don’t get a chance to get on stage, and there were a lot of opportunities, will be disappointed to have missed out on some of the huge fun. Dik and Adam enrol audience to party at their cardboard bar, complete with cardboard cocktails and take part in their band, playing, cardboard (of course) saxophone and guitar.

Set design and props from Pickled Image and Emma Powell are completely made from cardboard. This includes tables, chairs, drinks, food, even tanks (see the show to see how that sneaks in), the ride in the cardboard lift is one of the highlights if the evening.

Despite the seemingly haphazard and chaotic feel to the evening, this is a tightly crafted and scripted show thanks to the Pickled Image team and direction from John Nicholson. Credit also to the production team who manage the sound and technical effects that deliver the split second comic moments of our clown two-some. Puppetry skills are also on show as Poco makes his grotesque and disturbing appearance.

Will our two loveable prisoners escape? Which members of the audience will have to get in the cardboard box to swap with Dik and Adam? Find out for yourself.

Runs until 10 November 2016 then tour continues | Image: Contributed

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