'The Blanch' is a clown show based upon a shopping centre.
In last years unFringed(sic) there was a clown show, I didn't see it but a friend of mine who currently lives in the capital, did and when I asked her about it she said it was 'Okay, but I've seen a lot of that clowny stuff before done better'.
That was her opinion, told to me and based on what she knew. Unlike my friend I haven't seen a lot of clowny stuff before. The last clowny thing that I saw was in the Fossetts Circus tent at the Electric Picnic (I thought that clown was excellent), so I just thought it's best to admit from the get-go that this position (of complete clown ignorance) is where I'm coming from.
So 'The Blanch' is a clown show, a show comprised more or less entirely of physicality and slapstick that illustrates the reality of the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre as a stylised cartoon rather than a realistic portrait.
This cartoon of The Centre in particular is also, I think it's safe to assume, a comment on Ireland and consumerism in general.
There are three active clowns: and a live orchestra of two. Hunchbacked and grotesque, they roamed around the stage making faces and shouting at the late-comers and then they began:
I think the word is 'gagfest'.
The energy required to sustain something like this for an hour and a bit, I can only imagine. There are no tea-breaks on this job lads, the energy does not let up and the gags keep comin' and keep comin' and keep comin' and keep comin' and comin' and comin' and comin' and comin' and that's what you get and then it's over and out you go into the night, half-unsure if you dreamt the whole episode.
And that, perhaps, is what a clowny show is.
Did I enjoy it? Immensely. Would I recommend it? To most people, yeah,- so long as they knew what they were goin' to. Am I a fan of clowning now? Erah no. I dunno, maybe I'd have to see more of it.
Because the show is a cartoon, the characters are, of necessity, stereotypes: so some of the humour can be of the Brendan O'Carroll/Jim Davidson type which is grand and bawdy but not to everyone's taste.
Also, some of the jokes fell flat, not because they weren't funny but because there was no time to laugh. I prefer being bewildered and entertained to being spoon-fed and bored, but the constant rapid-fire gags without pause did wear me a little at times and not because they weren't funny or well-done, but because I didn't have time to digest what was happening in front of me.
The performers too, particularly in the beginning, sometimes began a set-piece at a point of extreme exhaustion, which maintains the frantic pace but can make them difficult to hear, just until they get their breath back.
Perhaps a little more experience of what clowning is would help me to appreciate it more. Over-all I was extremely impressed by the energy of the group and the sheer amount of work that they have obviously put into their show. It's fun and it's rude and it's as easy to enjoy as it is probably hard to perform. It wasn't flawless, I imagine it's not meant to be, but for every 'miss' there are plenty of 'hits' and it's funny and it's fresh and it has somethin' to say about Ireland right now.
If it comes your way, and you don't mind rude, go see it.
THE BLANCH, devised by 'Ciarán Taylor and the company'.
Performance:Bryan Burroughs, Amy Conroy and Jaimie Carswell.
Musicians:Jack Cawley and Kim Porcelli.
Costume design: Miriam Duffy.