Friday, 21 February 1997

Dust: A Clown Adventue, Feb 21,1997

Dust: A Clown Adventure by Brenda Waite & Sue Arnold
 Theatreworks until March 2, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Feb 21, 1997

Forget Marcel Marceau. All too rarely do we get a genuine clown show. The last we saw here, it seems, was a year ago and was the prequel to Dust and, please, do not think of klutzy clown make-up or romantic mime routines about love lost and wilting flowers.

Like last year's Happy as Laundry, Dust is unremittingly cute in the best possible way and never sentimental. Brenda Waite joins her new partner Sue Arnold in this duo and their two dusty innocents seem to be linked by an invisible thread.

They are child-like friends, playmates. At times they are two old-timers, at others a doting pup (Waite) and her opera-warbling mistress (Arnold). Director John Bolton, himself a clown king, has skilfully and sensitively woven together a charming, hilarious domestic clown adventure. The piece is tautly structured and the clown detail is fascinating to watch. There is only one flat spot quite late in the piece.

There is no linear narrative, simply a series of games, and familiar actions. The characters seem to dust off their favourite fun things to do together and run them over and over until they deteriorate into dusty clown chaos.

They allow each other space to obsess, one about her doggie bones and silly dancing, the other about her romantic dream of being Nellie Melba and her sweet ukulele song. All this is done with little or no dialogue, two chairs, a chest of drawers and a tricky cupboard.

There are some delightful repeated vignettes. They regularly sit down to a flask of tea -or is it brandy- spilling, splashing, tricking each other into swapping cups and they still end up friends. The charm of real clowns lies in their innocence and complete lack of vindictiveness in response to being duped. They smile and move on. A lesson?

play dusty harmonicas, salute dead friends with The Last Post, do their own sound effects, purposely out of time. There is definitely a harking back to silent movies and the hilarious chases of Keystone Kops and the sad-sack gaze of Buster Keaton with a little of Monty Python-esque Silly Fish Dancing tossed in.

This show is truly a joy. It is simple fun performed with honesty by seriously talented performers who are just adorable. Go see!


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