Puddles Pity Party
- Gareth K Vile
- 14 August 2015
This article is from 2015.
This sad clown brings joy
Despite his imposing physical presence and precise, expressive mime, there is more to Puddles than meets the eye. His Pity Party alternates between the sad clown's interpretations of classic rock and audience participation interludes, building to a finale that feels like a celebration of compassion.
Puddles' cover versions find new levels of melancholy in familiar songs: Lorde's ‘Royals’ becomes wistful and hopeful, and Leonard Cohen's ‘Hallelujah’ is returned to its religious majesty. In his pierrot outfit, Puddles is connecting the self pity of the spurned rock star lover, and the absurd vulnerability of the clown. This combination plunges the music deeper into misery, and exposes the detail of even over-familiar tunes.
When Puddles gets the audience involved, he delights in them: no mockery, just a need for company and play. An older gentleman is invited to sing a solo, a young girl has a tissue throwing fight with the clown. Puddles' obsession with Kevin Costner is revealed in the final number – which morphs into a heavy metal rock-out – but he refuses to be pitiful. By exposing his vulnerability in song and mime, he invites compassion. And his gentle attitude towards his volunteers is charming and warm.
His posturings evoke Mick Jagger and other vintage rock gods. Again, the juxtaposition with his clown make-up works not to undermine his strutting but suggest the essential sadness beneath the spectacle of male display.
If the inspiration for the Pity Party appears simple – a tragic clown with a beautiful baritone – Puddles works it until he becomes an archetypal figure, an embodiment of the romantic despair that infuses so much popular romantic music. At the same time, Puddles is fun, compassionate and an all-round entertainer.
Assembly George Square Gardens, 623 3030, until 31 Aug (not 18, 25), 7.25pm, £13–£14 (£12–£13).