A meaningful night of nonsense
"A LITTLE nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men…" said Roald Dahl, and the Structure Theatre company put his words into practice at the Wardrobe Theatre, above the White Bear at the top of St Michael's Hill.
As we entered the upstairs room we passed a man typing away furiously, and taking our seats we saw a red-nosed clown seated on the stage. The clown, played by Adam Blake, nods and winks at the audience as they file in.
The room is furnished in Edwardian style with a trunk spilling over with soft toys in the corner. Eventually the Man (Alan Conlon) joins him, looks out of the window, and remarks on the weather. He then proceeds to harass and insult the clown, but his language is curiously old-fashioned, calling him a 'sod', a plum and a gnome.
The Man is dark, bearded, humourless. It is fully a quarter of an hour before the clown speaks and it's a surprise because his voice is sonorous.
All the while the Man remains aggressive, exasperated with the clown's inability to answer a straightforward question. They play with the idea of a 'rhetorical' question, and deconstruct the notion of the double act, with the straight man and the comedian, and the Man tries to get the Clown to play Knock, Knock! but he is wasting his time, as the Clown either misses the point or is, perhaps, sending him up.
Gradually the power balance shifts. The Clown questions the Man about his problems sleeping, noting he sweats when he sleeps. They embrace, intimately. Maybe they were lovers, maybe they have just met. This is not realism, but not quite surrealism.
After a fracas with a banana, previously taped to a chair leg, the Man exits and we notice the Clown has removed his red nose. The rest of his clothes are ordinary, and suddenly he is serious, sombre even. From the other end of the room the Man reemerges, complete with red nose. He juggles, and keeps singing Christy Moore's Knock. The new 'straight man' makes the new clown sit down and interrogates him, before making him undergo a mock execution with bunting as his noose.
I wouldn't want audiences to think the play is deadly serious. This production is exciting and engaging and very funny in parts. Themes explored include the nature of friendship, the meaning of comedy, and the language is joyous and playful throughout. Both Adam Blake and Alan Conlon have great experience in physical theatre and it shows in their use, and parody, of circus skills. Director Anna Girvan is to be commended for bringing the play to the Wardrobe Theatre and writer Oliver Hoare (also leading the band 'Freddie and the Hoares') shows a lot of promise.