ClownHearted is a two-handed physical theatre piece, produced by Clodhopper Theatre, that follows two clowns trying to find the cure for their unhappiness. Through various sequences of physical comedy, mime, audience interaction and one-handed conversations with various forms of artificial intelligence, this tale of cooperation, friendship and positivity manages to remain persistently positive in the face of its heavy themes. ClownHearted is being streamed on the 22nd & 23rd October as part of the Dazed New World Festival from Applecart Arts.
The themes of the piece, also the conflicting feelings of the first clown to be seen (played by Leonie Spilsbury), are written on cardboard boxes. These themes include self-esteem, fear, hope, guilt, paranoia, anxiety and dreams. One box is labelled ‘Solution’ and contains a noose. With the help of a second clown (played by Owen Jenkins), the two attempt to resolve their feelings through various activities that are constantly recommended to people with mental health issues; exercise, mindfulness, social interaction, etc with influence from puppetry, slapstick & physical theatre, while also offering commentary on how people with mental illnesses are viewed in society and how to help those you love that may be afflicted with these conditions.
Also devised and directed by Spilsbury & Jenkins, with assistance from Movement Director Julia Cave, ClownHearted is wonderfully silly and mischievous, not afraid to take technological risks, take light political jabs at the government and take it’s time to get it’s message across. Although not all, most of the piece’s ideas seem innovative and original spins on classic clowning routines, almost seeming more relevant in their modernisation due to the rise in mental illness due to the isolation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The piece has been adapted to be viewed through a screen for this performance. This adds another layer of immersiveness for those viewing at home, with the performers constantly interacting and playing with the lens of the camera. A nice touch that makes the viewer feel more in the room.
Spilsbury & Jenkin’s performances and chemistry are charming and sincere, it is easy to believe that they are two firm friends as well as friends of each audience member. Although neither performer speaks throughout the hour duration, the dialogue spoken by artificial intelligence and recorded voice overs is hilarious and superbly well-written, and acts as an excellent narrator throughout the piece. The pieces of music that play throughout are all fitting and effective in emphasising both the silliness and moral of the story.
ClownHearted is a joyous and sugary sweet hour of utter nonsense, but in that hour you may feel just that bit closer to being back in a theatre and you may just learn to give yourself the love and patience that you need and deserve during these troubling times.