Higher Ground, Light Square
Reviewed Sunday February 21st 2010 (See Fringe guide for dates, times, etc.)
Presented by Guy Masterson’s Centre for International Theatre and Theatre Tours International.
Bookings: Fringetix & Venuetix outlets
Writer and actor, Justin Butcher, has also benefited from the guiding hand of director Guy Masterson, together presenting us with a totally captivating performance as a 100 year old clown, hanging up his red nose and oversized shoes for the final time as he retires on the eve of the new millennium, recounts his life story, and waits for death.
Butcher wrote the play a decade ago but, instead of performing it himself, he allowed Peter Postletwaite to premiere the work, to enormous success. Butcher has, now, found the chance to perform his own work, and that is our good fortune, as we witness this terrific actor bury himself in the character of the silent, white-faced clown with a fantastic history to divulge.
Born of a Trinidadian gypsy whore, Scaramouche had an unusually pale face, his mother informing him that his father was an Englishman. This early childhood is the first of the seven phases of his life or, as he sees them, his seven white masks. The first five decades of his life take us through Africa, as an assistant to a snake charmer, Egypt, Europe and to the Nazi concentration camps, where he was put to work digging graves. As the children passed him on the way to their deaths, he would mime a grotesquely funny scene to them, depicting what was to come, lifting them to laughter and easing their fears. Finally, he is allowed to live in England and, as he must have a surname to enter the country, adopts the surname of the immigration official, Jones.
This is a story that is bleak, powerful, sometimes darkly comic and unbelievably real in the hands of this masterful actor. Scaramouche is a survivor, resilient and doggedly persistent in his belief in being an Englishman by right of his birth. Butcher shows us every pain, every misfortune that Scaramouche has suffered in an astoundingly poignant performance, rich in poetic language, stark in its subject matter and brilliantly executed. His use of his voice, facial expressions and body language are impeccable. This is a production in which even the most critical, the most negative and the most discerning will find nothing to complain about. Even the set, lighting and costume are exactly right.
It is rare to see something of this remarkably high standard and you owe it to yourself to indulge in an evening in the company of genius, while you can.
A CD recording of this work is available in the foyer after the show and there is now doubt that these will sell out, unless they brought a container load with them, so make sure that you get yours on the way out. You will want to relive this performance again and again.
Do not miss this production!
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, GLAM Adelaide Arts Editor.