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The Pain and Strife of the Bourgeois Life at Moors Theatre

Philippa Hambly
Philippa Hambly

I was invited along to watch Philippa Hambly’s one woman devised show at this year’s Camden Fringe on Monday evening, the show’s international debut.

The show is about 1 hour in length and was advertised as “not just another existential clown show” and “relentless and intimate. Outrageous and delicate.”

I loved this show. It begins and ends in a garden, presumably the Garden of Eden, where we meet The Gardener. Philippa Hambly contorts her body and face in to an elderly, grumpy gardener who really loves her garden and loves to dance. We hear a voiceover, an omnipotent, omniscient female voice who then begins to tell our story; a modern allegory that makes us, the audience hold a mirror to our ways and thoughts in this world.

The piece chronicles the casting out of Eve from the Garden of Eden, her transformation from Eve in to the more Earthy Scanticlad. Clad scantily in leaves to cover her modesty Eve is searching for her way on this Earth. Almost Nietzschean, she struggles to find her way and meets some interesting characters on her path.

For me, the piece is routed in very powerful ideas about the human condition; war, colonialism, greed, finance, growing up in modern society and our mortality, the piece is delivered through a variety of mediums from fairy tale to song and spoken word. Through mime, physicality, puppetry, dance, circus performance and various quick changes we are taken on a journey of self-reflection to frightening outcomes. Although a dark piece, it is not all doom and gloom, Philippa manages to perfectly balance the humour and laughs with pathos and cruelty, as an audience we are made complicit in the actions.

Philippa’s performance is not confined to the naturalistic stage, she frequently breaks the 4th Wall and moves freely amongst the audience, inviting a few on stage with her to play roles in Scanticlad’s journey.

Overall a thoughtful place where you get to play footsie, see the Atlantic Lady and learn how to write history so you are remembered. My friend and I talked about the piece on the way home and felt that the show triggered some really interesting discussions.

I’d like to see this show again when it has had some time to develop further.
4 stars

Review by Faye Stockley

Inspired by Luis Bunuel’s satirical, surrealist depiction of Italian society in his 1972 film ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’, and the confessional art of sculptor Louise Bourgeois, dark-clown Scanticlad presents her unique take on the way things are.
In a story that begins with expulsion from the Garden of Eden, ’The Pain & Strife of the Bourgeois Life’ probes at archaic, though persistently hypnotic, narratives of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the intoxicating megalomania of Western society. Convinced by the aspiration of the millennial you-can-do-anything-if-you-try rhetoric, and carrying the shame of The Fall, she sets out to save the world. And discovers a world of papists and puppets, conquerors and abandoned souls.

‘Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain Britain. So conform to it, or don’t come here’ Tony Blair famously said. Scanticlad has a few questions about this…

With multiple characters, quick-changes, hilarious choreography, physical theatre and puppetry… she answers none of them. But inhabits the hypocrisy, fear mongering, disembodiment, cruelty, divisiveness and power play all the way.

An anarchic, existential comedy, a debut solo show from Philippa Hambly. The audience should expect to be made complicit in the confession. Scanticlad is what she sees… and the world is a beautifully unpredictable place.

‘Philippa is definitely an actor I shall be looking out for in future’ – London Theatre1 (Myths, Blue Elephant)
‘Philippa… performs comic moments with masterful execution’ – Whatspeenseen (Marelle, CWCS)

Written, directed and performed by Philippa Hambly, winner of Best Emerging Ensemble with Teatro Envilo, Mimetic Festival 2014 and Upstage part III, 2015. Additional directorial support from actor and clown teacher Inda Pereda.

After presenting sections of The Pain & Strife of the Bourgeois Life at Scratch That Hackney, Scratch That Brixton, and winning Upstage at the Moors Theatre, the full show will be shown for the first time at the Camden Fringe 2015, with the hope to bring it to more London venues later in the year.


  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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