The Clown Cabaret is a night of performance and scratch events that regularly takes place at the Assembly Roxy in Edinburgh. It brings together different elements of clowning and physical theatre to present an evening of comedy and entertainment. The Clown Cabaret Special Edition is therefore the perfect event to close the Manipulate Festival’s apperance in Edinburgh.
The cabaret begins with the trio known as The Weird Sisters shuffling onto the stage whilst dramatic and exuberant music plays. As they appear, dressed in shamanic white robes and strange-looking headwear, they assure the audience by telling us they can read our minds. While they may not get inside our brains, they certainly open the door to an evening of madness, comedy and clowning. After The Weird Sisters comes Bete Noire from Ruxandra Cantir: a physical piece about frustration, mystery and comedy. A phone is ringing and the clown is intrigued. This curious performance ends with a horrific twist that is delivered with style and humour.
The mystery continues with Bat Lady from Pina Polar. The Bat Lady is a witch-like creature who finds interest in the mundane. As with Bete Noire, it is a finely paced physical theatre performance where a lonely character seeks familiarity and belonging from their surroundings. The performance has a chaotic and spontaneous feel where props and objects are used to emphasise the awkwardness and intrigue of the character.
Possibly the highlight of the evening is La Divina from Lisette Boxman. A predominantly silent piece, we watch a topless woman struggling to hide her breasts. She attempts to get into a dress without exposing herself and then plucks out a member of the audience to help her perform a song and dance routine. It is a fantastic comedy piece that keeps the audience laughing throughout.
Following Boxman is Sheepish, which is simply a bizarre creation presented by puppeteer and clown Calum MacAskill. The sheep is very tall and has no arms. He dances around the stage and appears to go through what can be described as a grotesque and awkward rebirth. It is a funny and truly surreal experience.
Next is Annabel Cooper, a drag king performer, who this evening presents us with Misleading Man. Taking 80’s action heroes as an influence, the show plays with masculinity, action movie tropes and identity. The Misleading Man arrives onstage with a bundle of energy. He has a bag full of props and uses them to show how macho and courageous he is. Cooper is a great comedian and manages to fit in an abundance of movie references and innovation into a short performance.
In total there are six different acts tonight but they all blend into one another, and characters and performers pop up to help with the clearing of the stage and the transition into the next performance. This gives the event a pleasant collective and collaborative feel, as if the entire evening is one cohesive performance occurring in its own madcap fantasy world. Being invited into this world is what makes the Clown Cabaret feel special; it is a truly exceptional and bizarre way to spend an evening.