Review: Bad (Old Fitz Theatre / Red Line Productions)

redline2Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 14 – 31, 2015
Director: Scott Witt
Cast: Penny Greenhalgh, Kate Walder
Image by Yael Stempler

Theatre review
Bad is a show performed by clowns about acting (amongst other things). Along with director Scott Witt, performers Penny Greenhalgh and Kate Walder have devised a work that uses clowning traditions and influences from Commedia dell’arte, to deliver a theatrical experience that is slightly left of centre. Their show is more amusing than it is funny, and their ideas are familiar rather than original, but there is an earnestness and purity to their approach that can be quite charming.

Walder is the “stunt woman” clown who speaks with a French accent, toddling around in a pair of tap shoes. Insisting that she is Cate Blanchett, the Hollywood and theatre star, she goes on to present a show entitled ‘Where’s My Bucket, Mom?’, enlisting the help of Greenhalgh, “philosopher” clown who gradually warms to the idea of being Geoffrey Rush (another star of stage and screen). The plot and story are chaotic and random, but we are always brought back to the theme of performance. Walder and Greenhalgh explore the nature of the theatrical space and the experience of acting using their unconventional methods, with mixed results. The pair is well rehearsed, but the play’s frenzied style and structure require more intense energy levels to provide a sense of abandonment and absurdity to match its concepts. Both actors seem fairly cautious, creating a space that feels safe, where we would prefer a sense of danger and unpredictability.

Not every actor is a clown, but all clowns act. They give us something unique, that can be found in their license to transgress. Clowns do not speak much, because they communicate in better ways. They reach out to us in realms that are beyond words, so that we understand the world from a different perspective. When done right, they impart a kind of wisdom that brings unexpected enlightenment. Bad is not always good, but what’s worse is doing things the same way over and over again. There is a courage at play here, and we need more of it.