Kombini (3 stars)

This article is from 2019


credit: Carl Archambault

Russian-style clowning from Montreal delights but drags its feet

Clowns are used to mortgaging their dignity for our entertainment, but Montreal's Les Foutoukours have found a situation that even someone wearing striped pantaloons, a ruff and a red nose would baulk at: performing at a child's birthday party. It's a neat piece of meta-clowning, allowing us to see clowns humiliated by dressing up as … clowns (just in even more garish and unflattering costumes than they were already wearing).

Both Rémi Jacques and Jean-Félix Bélanger are trained in Russian clowning which mixes tragi-comic notes into its farce, and both are natural performers. Bélanger at his best when puppy-eyed in shock or unleashing a torrent of pent-up rage, Jacques when hectoring the audience or gleeful at the thought of something forbidden. He has all the charm and horror of a recalcitrant toddler and is brilliant when trying to pin the blame for his mischief on a hapless crowd member, which then turns into a messy and climactic extravaganza.

But shortly after this, the show loses momentum and begins to drag. A section building up to a doomed blind date takes a long time to set up for a fleeting punchline. A snappier paring down would allow more concentrated laughs and pathos.

Underbelly's Circus Hub, until 24 Aug (not 20), 2pm, £12.50–£15 (£11.50–£14).


  • 3 stars

Underbelly and Les Foutoukours Montreal's distinguished circus company present a show for teenagers and adults alike. Exasperated of waiting for the biggest international theatre to call, two clowns decide to accept the unthinkable contract… a children's birthday party! Join the duo for world-class juggling and acrobatics…