Coulrophobia at Tropicana Theatre

Did you know that the term for a fear of clowns is coulrophobia? Whether you did or whether you didn’t, I’ll bet you’re acquainted with at least one coulrophobic. We took one with us to face her fear head on, a brave move indeed, especially seeing as the show promised a lot of audience participation with its two madcap clowns, Dik Downey and Adam Blake. Now, I have no problem with clowns but I must admit to being a little apprehensive on arriving at the former Dismaland (surely a perfect venue for such a spectacle?), even more so when I realised just how many members of the local community I knew in the audience … “Please don’t pull me up on stage. Please don’t pull me up on stage” became my silent mantra. We sat right at the back, no-one behind us, unwittingly exposed.

Dik and Adam are trapped in a cardboard world, with little idea of how they got there and how they should behave; many of their movements are controlled by the malevolent Poco, a potty-mouthed and impatient puppet. During a thoroughly entertaining hour and a half, Dik and Adam use a mixture of mime, dance, slapstick, puppetry, nudity, trickery and music to make sense of, and ultimately to escape, their hell.

The audience is willing. There was no need to worry; not one person objects to sharing the stage with these two hilarious madmen and the participatory element is benign, barely anyone up there showing signs of discomfort or cringing. On the contrary, most were visibly enjoying themselves or maybe they were just eager to down the cardboard cocktail everyone received by way of thanks. The (cardboard) lift scene was brilliant and it was a touch of accidental genius that Adam should fall in love with the best-known cafe owner in Weston, wining and dining her with cardboard food and a cardboard bottle of wine.

Emma Powell’s props are extra inventive. Really, practically everything is made from cardboard, from chainsaw to boat. The clowning around is, though, anything but cardboard – Coulrophobia is an hilarious, uproarious, crazy way to spend a cold January evening, a sure fire way to lift the spirits. As one friend, an accomplished and hugely funny stage performer himself, put it, “I left feeling elated.”

This is a highly original piece of theatre and I swear that l’ve never seen anything like it. You will witness things that will probably refuse to leave you. In a good way. My mate observed that the image of Howard Coggins in his Union Flag Speedos (in Living Spit’s Adolf and Winston) had finally been dislodged in her brain by something more bizarre and disturbing, thanks to Dik and Adam’s final scene. Be warned, your life may never be the same again. I’m not sure our phobic friend was completely cured but she was definitely laughing.

Coulrophobia was the perfect end to what has been a well-thought out and smoothly executed run of pop up theatre from Theatre Orchard and North Somerset Council’s Seafront and Events Team. Weston and its people deserve such excellence. Thank you. I am going to miss Theatre @ The Bay; in the words of another friend who runs her own local events of the highest quality possible, “This is the best thing to happen to Weston in all the years I’ve lived here.” I’ll leave it there. For now.

Find out more about Pickled Image here.

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