Puddles Pity Party: Let's Go!
An unexpected musical and visual delight with the saddest of clowns
This article is from 2016.
Returning after 2015's triumphant debut, Puddles continues with another concoction of rock covers and gently anarchic humour. For an hour, he invites the audience into a world of his own making, with mime and 80s power ballads as the building blocks. Dressed in the classic clown garb of pantaloons and white face, he proceeds through a series of beautifully sung tunes and skits that involve kind, if not always gentle, audience participation.
The effect would not be as great if Puddles did not have such a good singing voice. He lends his pipes to numbers by Queen, Tina Turner, Electric Light Orchestra and the more contemporary Twenty One Pilots with a sense of sincerity rather than mockery. He even manages to wring both pathos and humour from a Coldplay track. In this he's aided greatly by his use of slides and VT, and the audience's differing reaction – depending on whether they are watching the screen or the clown himself – lends a nice dynamic to the room.
The sad clown is an archetype with a long tradition, from the Commedia dell'Arte's Pierrot to those creepy paintings decaying in charity shops and on to the old joke which Alan Moore reiterates in Watchmen – to paraphrase: man tells doctor he is sad; doctor advises he see the great clown Pagliacci; man says 'but I am Pagliacci'.
Though Puddles presents himself on the surface as the clown who, ironically, can't make himself laugh, the role he plays is more nuanced. Rather than simply trying to cheer up the audience or conversely remind them of the world's despair, he invites them to join him in his misery and empathise, often finding celebratory moments along the way. The warm and fuzzy feelings of community he engenders make his Pity Party an unexpected delight.
Assembly George Square, until 29 Aug (not 15, 22), 7.25pm, £14–£16 (£13–£15).