Photo: Kyla McDonald

Kooky clown cabaret

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By Kelvin Chan

If you attend an All-Clown Soiree you might see a big, bad biker queen with a bowl of jello reaching down — way down — into the bosom of her swimsuit and coming out with a spoon. She eats some jello with the spoon, then throws what’s left at a man in a wheelchair wearing a robe and playing a keyboard.

If you are intrigued by the above scene you’ll want to attend one of the Theatre Resource Centre’s All-Clown Soirees, where biker queen Karen and wheelchair-bound Segeev (no, he doesn’t really need one) are just two of the clowns you might see.

That’s right, they’re clowns and the All-Clown Soirees are an improvisational night of theatre featuring clowns.

However, these aren’t your ordinary brand of clowns. They’re not the kind that wear big floppy shoes, wide bow ties, coloured wigs and fall down to hurt themselves for laughs.

No, the only visible connection these clowns have with regular circus clowns is that they both wear red noses, and both want to make you laugh. But that’s where the similarities begin and end.

The clowns that you’ll see at the All-Clown Soirees employ a technique called “Clown Through Mask.” This technique is based on the North American Indian concept of maskers, who are seen as messengers of the gods. Unlike traditional clown methods, which rely on visual gags, “Clown Through Mask” is internally based. In a typical “turn” or scene, the audience is taken on an emotional journey, comprised of four elements. First, the clown presents him or herself. The audience is then taken into the clown’s world, transformed and finally brought back.

Because the soirees are improvisational, every night is different. If you attend one, you may see clowns such as Elanna and the aforementioned Segeev. Elanna twitches nervously and reads a poem in honour of Segeev’s birthday in which she rants that “the collective consciousness is dead.”

Or you may see Lisa, dressed in a bathing suit, skirt and apron and a tiara with pearl bracelets over rubber gloves that have red painted false fingernails on them. Lisa may spear some grapes and tangerine slices onto a small clear plastic tree and then offer them to you and other members of the audience.

But as much fun as it was to watch, and All-Clown Soiree is impossible to describe in words. All I can say is that it is a spontaneous, goofy, sometimes kinky and always surprising show.

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