Circuses and carnivals are fun places – dedicated to providing enjoyment and thrills for their many visitors at all costs. But underneath the painted faces of the clowns and the sideshows of fantastic freaks, there is, to my mind, a potential undercurrent of something dreadful going on. This suspicion of mine has now been realised and brought to life in Mark Borkowski’s The Godling which is having its European premiere at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre.
In a dark room a handsome young man (Rory Fairbairn) waits and slowly draws the players on to the stage, manipulating them all like a master puppeteer until they are in the right position. First to arrive is the painted clown (Paula Brett) who goes through her routine before smudging her makeup, removing her costume and lying on a mattress covered in un-inflated balloons. Next is Lilly (Carla Espinoza) and finally, the X (Philip North) the owner of the carnival and Zena (Maria Alexe). Without giving too much away – for The Godling is one of those plays that needs to be seen – X and Zena are nasty people with a taste for the horrific. The two of them are waiting for the young man – whose name is Edvot – to arrive. He too is nasty and has been assisting X and Zena with a problem they have been having with their clown. No matter how cold, emotionless and downright terrifying Edvot is, nothing prepares him for the reality of X’s plan to keep his carnival alive for him and Zena, and their actions force Edvot to confront himself and his own attitude to humanity.
Not afraid to hold my hands up here. I think circuses are scary. I have been terrified of clowns since Poltergeist and really just don’t like the idea of carnivals and their associated ‘specialist’ acts and shows. Feeling this way about The Godling, I was probably the wrong person to send to review the show as I was ready to run out screaming in the first five minutes – the whole thing was so realistic and mesmerising. From the horribly familiar steam organ music being played when we entered to The Godling’s final words, this was a production that captured and held me prisoner throughout. The cast are amazing in portraying the various characters, especially Rory Fairbairn who manages to project a deep, almost hypnotic, intensity to the horrific character of Edvot, and while on the whole he does nothing directly that seems to warrant it, every character on the stage is obviously terrified of him. But, and here is the genius of the writing and the actor, there is a moment, when he smiles and suddenly he is just that nice young lad next door who waters the garden when you’re away. While singling out characters, I have to mention Paula Brett who – for reasons I won’t go into – portrays the horror story that the clown is living superbly.
The Godling runs for about an hour, which is probably good – any longer and I for one would be having nightmares – and thanks to the cast and Director Maud Madlyn, works extremely well in the intimate surroundings of the Etcetera Theatre. There is humour in the story but on the whole, it is an intense and deeply unsettling piece for various reasons. The main one being that, as with all good horror stories, it cannot be dismissed out of hand as pure fantasy. Somewhere, in a traveling carnival, The Godling could be happening right now.
Review by Terry Eastham
Set deep in the underbelly of a travelling circus, X and Zena have plans to ensure the freakshow stays alive…forever. But they weren’t prepared for a desperate clown at the end of her rope or having to call upon a Godling to help them.
In a place where time has ceased to exist, our characters are trapped between what they are and what they are willing to become…some will make it to their transformation, some won’t.
This year, get in the Christmas spirit our way and dare to embark with us on this metaphysical horror of a journey … Written by award-winning American playwright and ’Boardwalk Empire’ actor Mark Borkowski, don’t miss this exclusive UK Premiere!
Produced by Defiant Reality Theatre
Written by Mark Borkowski
Directed by Maud Madlyn
Maria Alexe – Zena
Paula Brett – Clown
Carla Espinoza – Lilly
Rory Fairbairn – Edvot
Philip North – X
14th December 2015 – 19th December 2015 at 7:00pm