A flickering candle, a single suitcase and a mirror—there’s not much more to the dressing room of Scaramouche Jones, clown extraordinaire, as he prepares for his impending death. Such a stripped-back set belies the content of the play—an inventive, imaginative and richly-realised world, which holds the audience captive in it’s white-gloved palm.
Ostensibly one solitary clown’s autobiography, the play uses Jones to tell the story of the first half of the 2oth Century—and no punches are pulled in terms of material. What starts out as a mad-cap adventure from Trinidad to the Sahara to the shores of the Mediterranean, suddenly switches to Fascist Italy and the impending horror of the late 30s.
The many-layered white face of Scaramouche—a birth mark, rather than an affectation—is woven into the story, each new coat of paint signifying a new chapter. It’s a heavily narrative tale, but to imply a lack of drama would be a lie. Myriad twists and turns—slavery, child brides and a snake named Benjamin Disraeli, to name but a few—keep events ticking over. It’s a tale that is chilling and witty, raucous and restrained, and above all, very human.
Such a tall order for a single actor requires a great deal of talent onstage. Happily, Thom Tuck is masterful: charismatic, compelling and in possession of a deeply commanding stage presence (with a voice to match). He brings the full weight of a richly-lived life to the stage, weighed down by his experiences. As the final curtain falls, the audience is left with much to savour, and all of it poignantly satisfying.