It is a rare and precious thing to find a show which is not only brilliant, but which is brilliant in such a wide range of ways. On the face of it, A Little Nonsense is an extremely well executed piece of clown theatre, complete with pleasingly exasperated straight-man and an unusually endearing clown. And then, just when you are settling in, content in the knowledge that you know exactly what this show is, it pins you to your chair with an effortlessly poetic monologue or a patch of fast-paced banter like something out of early Tom Stoppard.
An excellent piece of theatre, an intelligent piece of clowning, a profound piece of writing
Andy Kelly's Clown is everything a good clown should be: an excellent physical actor who manages to be utterly charming while also lending just the right amount of vulnerability to the role. He is perfectly offset by Matt Christmas' straight man. His exasperation, which hovers on the edge of viciousness, lends a real tension to the whole show.
The script, by Oliver Hoare, is something really special. It tells a story so delicate as to be almost invisible, but its presence lends a coherence to the whole show that allows it to look deeper and ask questions about the nature of adulthood. Perhaps the strongest moments occur when the silly and the serious are brought into direct contact, the clown entertaining the audience while the straight-man has an entirely naturalistic breakdown behind him. It is a testament to Christmas' skill that he can switch from the heightened acting required for the clowning sections to the quiet eloquence of understatement without a note out of place. It allows the whole thing to intrude upon our real world, so it is impossible to dismiss what is happening as simply surreal and not part of us.
Everything about this production is cohesive and this allows it to dart from light to dark in a way that is unsettling without feeling fragmented. The set is bland and rather depressing but filled with hidden silliness that can be brought out and hidden away again without trace; the costumes seem either drab or absurd as the context demands. It provides the perfect support for the two actors and their chemistry does the rest.
An excellent piece of theatre, an intelligent piece of clowning, a profound piece of writing. Oh, and it’s very funny, too.