Dr Brown returns to Soho Theatre with his previously performed and highly acclaimed solo clown shows Because, Becaves and Bedfrgth and this time he’s performing the joyous bundle as a series.
One thing’s for sure, you shouldn’t sit in the front row at the show of a world renowned clown artist with a pad and pen in your hand and expect to be left alone. The same goes if you sit in the front row inebriated and take pictures with your work phone, as one barrister discovered to his dismay when his phone was confiscated and the doctor “accidentally” phoned one of his clients. To the rest of the audience’s delight, the trouble makers got their come uppance, as did the unfortunate few who were well behaved but made eye contact.
Because is absurdist comedy on a potassium high; surely no one can eat that many bananas in one go and not experience inspiration. It’s frivolously messy and somehow makes childishness sexy. Dr Brown is a clown who loves PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) especially those which involve him and an unwilling male audience member and, needless to say, so does the rest of the audience. Before he has even arrived on stage, the numerous false lighting and music cues build that sort of sicky excitement you get at the start of a roller coaster; you don’t know how wild this ride is going to be. Let me say this, from henceforth Nutella will bring back troubling memories.
The bonkers events, and non-events, of this show are complimented by a surreally episodic structure; a game of Guess Who between Dr Brown and his counterpart, Dr Brown, (indicated by the nonchalant changing of hats), is interrupted by a ‘ding dong’ and an apparent delivery by an invisible postman of a dogeared disney magazine. This then leads into what appears to be a primary school language lesson. As with any clown or child, repetition is their delight and the themes from various episodes reappear in evolved states to hilarious effect.
Some of my favourite moments included his invisible hand puppetry and in particular the hand gestures indicating the marionette’s removal of underwear; his pained restraint, visibly akin to some sort of fit, in waiting for an arbitrary beat to clap along to ‘Sell Your Dope’; continually picking up and replacing chicken fillets that would immediately fall out of his skimpy, belly dancer top.
In general, watching fellow audience member’s suffer, knowing it could be you, is just so butt-clenchingly entertaining. What makes Because so moorish, however, is the maker himself. Burgess has an understated flair for flirting with an audience and a natural warmth even in his cruellest moments. His occasional corpsing, whilst breaking character, makes him even more endearing and it’s inspiring to see that he’s still fully engaged in a piece he created over four years ago. Don’t be put off seeing Because, or either of his other shows, if you don’t like being picked on, just don’t sit near the front.