The Flop: Clown fun facing a stiff challenge

The Flop

Hijinx director Ben Pettit-Wade reveals the inspiration behind their newest production

Doubtless destined to launch a thousand headlines with penis-related puns, The Flop emerged from inclusive company Hijinx's exploration into the potential of clowning as a vehicle for the discussion of sex and vulnerability. 'One of the cast stumbled upon a mine of information about the impotence trials in 17th-century France,' explains director Ben Pettit-Wade, 'when the church and the state tied themselves in knots over the need for everyone to be able to consummate their marriage. If you could not, for whatever reason, you could be brought to trial and forced to prove your virility at a public trial.'

The strangeness of these laws was too good to ignore, and the story of the Marquis and Marquise de Langely 'has it all – love, pride, a fall from grace, failure, manipulative relatives and plenty of idiocy,' Pettit-Wade says. 'We saw two characters at its centre who do not conform to societal expectations, who were outsiders. I think this is a very clown theme.' With Hijinx's previous Fringe success Meet Fred having gleefully subverted theatrical conventions, The Flop continues the company's enthusiasm for disrupting the predictable through a dynamic dramaturgy and sardonic humour.

For Pettit-Wade, clowning is joyous, a chance to 'approach everything through play and finding the game' and a chance to 'break all the conventions of traditional theatre: there is none of the stuffiness and bullshit.' And unlike in 17th-century France, 'you can acknowledge and embrace your mistakes, your flops at any moment.'

Summerhall, Wed 3–Sun 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 4.55pm, £12 (£8). Previews Wed 3–Sun 5 Aug, £6.

The Flop

  • 3 stars

A Hijinx production in association with Spymonkey Paris. 1650-ish. Impotence is illegal. When a member of the aristocracy is accused of being less than upstanding, his wounded pride leads him towards a monumental and very public flop. But can a cast of total idiots save a show about a flop… from being one? The creators…

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