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The Clown of Clowns at The Arcola Theatre – Review

The Clown of ClownsThe Clown of Clowns is a curious evening of two shows drawn together by Constella Ballet and Orchestra and Khymerikal, part of Arcola’s Grimeborn Festival – an opera festival of new and exciting works by young, classical music artists.

Conductor and composer Leo Geyer has pioneered an evening combining the compelling forces of Schoenberg’s melodrama, Pierrot Lunaire with his own original work, Sideshows – a random, bizarre circus, which had its premiere last year at Kings Place and was broadcasted live on BBC Radio 3.

Beginning with Pierrot Lunaire, the Constella Orchestra set a dark and formal tone with suits, bow ties and dim lighting. Matt Perry dances as our joyless and lost protagonist Pierrot. He sits despairingly, moving uncomfortably on the floor. As soon as Geyer lifts his arms and conducts, the Constella Orchestra dive deep and produce rich and raw emotion of Schoenberg’s iconic score. Emma Stannard provides the voice of fear, confusion, desire and anger through twenty-one abstract poems, translated into German by Otto Erich Harleben – originally written in French by Belgium poet Albert Giraud.

Stannard’s voice leaps from high to low pitches, singing about a variety of ambiguous themes including violence, crime, and The Moon. She also interacts with Pierrot, offering him white paint to cover his face, an allegory of covering his shame. It’s worth mentioning that when Pierrot Lunaire premiered in Berlin, 1912, it received mix reviews including strong criticism for its distinctive, atonal style. It is not an easy work, but with a visual choreography of the words put into dance by Alfred Taylor Gaunt, this production transforms Pierrot Lunaire into a welcoming and reflective piece.

Perry twirls and glides on the floor, bringing out the emotional turmoil of Pierrot psychological struggles with dancers, Peter Moir and Amelia O’Hara adding to the intense, modernistic and decadent style of the piece.

Sideshows, however, is far from melodramatic. Upbeat, faster and funnier, the Constella Orchestra play an active part on stage as clowns with their musical prowess and unique cheekiness. Geyer is our conductor and ringmaster introducing every new act with silly humour where possible. Rachel Maby performs as a palm reader with a cool and subdued voice which teleports audiences into a jazz and cabaret bar. Yet she changes tact later on when she performs as tantrum baby, Little Delilah and scats, running around the stage with ringmaster chasing her.

O’Hara slithers out of a basket as a green and seductive snake that goes missing into the audience. Clarinetist, Antanas Makštutis is forced to look for her and he wiggles out a tune at the same time. Peter Moir also gives the audience something to adore and laugh about as he performs as a dancing bear, in pajamas, and pirouettes as a gracious, bearded lady.

Although Sideshows is an entirely strange and peculiar piece, it’s an intriguing and entertaining show that is not to be taken too seriously.

3 Star Review

Review by Mary Nguyen

Constella Ballet & Orchestra in collaboration with Khymerikal presents The Clown of Clowns by Arnold Schoenenberg / Leo Geyer, featuring PIERROT LUNAIRE and SIDESHOWS

Roll up, roll up for this opera-ballet circus spectacular! Experience the darkest and most jovial of Clown themed tales in one evening! This unique interpretation of Pierrot Lunaire adds new choreography to Schoenberg’s iconic score. It’s paired with the award-winning Sideshows, an unhinged circus show set to a jazz-inspired score by Leo Geyer (as heard on BBC Radio 3).

Sung and danced, freakish and dead funny, The Clown of Clowns comes to Grimeborn for five performances only.

Directed by Joel Fisher
Producer Chiara Beebe, Flute Sarah Bennet, Conductor Leo Geyer, Clarinet Antanas Makstutis, Dancer Ash Longshaw, Soprano Rachel Maby, Cello Michael Newman, Violin Tim Rathbone, Piano Leanne Cody, Choreographer Alfred Taylor-Gaunt, Costume Seb Freeburn, Make-up Artist Billie Mackenzie, Dancer Matt Petty, Dancer Peter Moir, Dancer Amelia O’Hare, Soprano Emma Stannard.

4th to 8th August 2015

Saturday 8th August 2015

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