Formed from a bare stage consisting of a few chairs and a table, some tartan clown suits, and plenty of white face paint, Out of Order is far more than its constituent parts, producing a largely compelling political allegory as the actors repeatedly bicker, fight, form temporary allegiances, break them, and fight again.
Clearly intended to evoke the stealthy backbiting, cabinet-table rowing, and open aggression in the House of Commons and Number 10 Downing Street of late, the clownish state of the nation piece, successful ironises and trivialises the behaviour of our modern politicians, at times echoing their earnest intention, but, at others, exposing their actions for nothing more than outright farce.
The identical maudlin make-up of the anonymous cast causes the actors to seem exhausted as soon as the performance begins, even before the helter-skelter and repetitive patterns of fighting and humiliation begin.
Brief concords are made to trip-up, trick, and bamboozle other clowns, throwing chairs in the path of instigators and making slip-shop barricades against their attacks, only for them to soon be destroyed and for the whole preposterous process to begin again.
This absurdist clown-show is an incredibly apt demonstration of public perception of trivial and petty backbiting that our elected officials seem to engage in, and there is much of Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus here regarding repetitive action being the path to madness and ridiculousness.
However, much of the British voter’s exasperation about the ultimate social stasis of all this activity is inherent in the play itself, meaning that whilst it is no doubt well-pitched and keenly observant, it doesn’t progress very far in its 90 minutes running time. Whilst the frustration felt by the audience is no doubt true to life, it is not the most compelling journey given the fairly long running time.
British politics is ‘out of order’ no doubt, but the same gripping message of this play would be felt in half the time. This is an astute and sophisticated clown show, but perhaps one that’s a little too pleased with itself.
Review by Ben Miller
Driven by a heavy musical score, Out Of Order teeters carelessly between funny and not funny at all, comic and absolutely tragic.
A troupe of hapless clowns sit huddled at a table waiting for trouble to start. Like friends divided. Like deadlocked politicians. Old gags escalate and new ones backfire.
Music, sweat and fierce light. Blank faces, double takes and bright ideas. There may be peace for a moment but soon there will be mayhem again.
A kind of poetic State of the Nation rendered as clown act gone wrong. Where we’re at. Where we are heading.
Out of Order say it all without speaking.