Skrimshanks (2 stars)

Clowning duo meander and falter

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Skrimshanks

credit: Richard Lock

Although Skrimshanks begins promisingly, with the two bouffons (jesters or buffoons) building up characters who draw on fine English traditions of theatrical pomposity, the emphasis on audience engagement and improvisation leaves the duo sadly exposed. Dressed up in the familiar prosthetics and white face-paint, the duo literally divide the audience and, after the introductions, attempt to weave mocking fun around them.

With a large proportion of the audience on stage – and unable to see the performers as they offer the strongest sequences – Skrimshanks relies heavily on the interplay with this unwilling ensemble. Sadly, the duo's comic timing is weak, and a series of games yield little fun. The best moments attack the predictability of the Fringe's programme and audience, and the catchphrase-obsessed culture of arts funding.

While the show needs a willing audience to succeed, the performers do not capitalise on the openings they are given. At least one audience member this evening was trained at the famous Gaulier clown school, another is a graduate of an American Commedia Dell'arte school, yet they ended up sat glumly on stage.

Bouffon is a form popularised at the Fringe by the ferocious Red Bastard, and it is an opportunity to attack pieties and lazy thinking. Far from using the bouffon's licence to challenge and provoke, Skrimshanks meanders and falters.

Assembly George Square Theatre, until 28 Aug (not 16, 22), 10.30pm, £10–£12.

Skrimshanks

  • 2 stars

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