As the characters themselves ask in the opening minutes, “How do you make a clown show about true crime?”
Dead Gorgeous: A True Crime Clown Show aims to answer that question in this hilarious, bizarre and unexpectedly moving piece by new Adelaide company, Madness of Two.
It’s the sort of show that defies description, blending clown antics, sketch comedy and musical satire to create a vivid world of murder and mayhem. The show interrogates our society’s obsession with true crime and confronts the underlying issues of domestic violence, toxic masculinity and media sensationalism that goes along with them. That might all sound rather dreary, but instead, Dead Gorgeous: A True Crime Clown Show is a gut-busting, gut-punching, riotously good time.
The cast is uniformly strong, and each gets several moments to show off their skills. Ellen Graham is a gifted physical comedian and brings great characterisation to her role as Lizard. Jamie Hornsby brings comedy and pathos to his role as Wah, the musical clown, as well as a beautiful singing voice and impressive piano skills. Zola Allen is particularly hilarious as Linda, the glamorous clown, and Arran Beattie provides a gleeful counterpoint as the raccoon-like Roger. Jasmin McWatters is equally commanding and endearing in her role as Britney, the younger clown. Deft direction by Hew Parham keeps this rollercoaster on track, and a clever script and array of catchy original songs hold the piece together.
There’s a particularly funny sequence between Linda and Roger acting out a scene of marital bliss, a lovely ukulele ditty from Britney, plenty of witty one-liners and parody advertisements. But it is in the final sequence that this show really shines, with the one-two punch of ‘Under the Rug’, a masterful satirical song by Jamie Hornsby, followed by a devastating and impassioned monologue delivered by Ellen Graham. This section perfectly encapsulates the power and contradiction of this show, making us laugh about the dark subject matter and then punching us in the gut with the reality of it. To borrow the old adage, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you think.
Dead Gorgeous: A True Crime Clown Show is a wacky, weird and wonderful Fringe offering and one that deserves to be seen far and wide. Highly recommended.
Runs until March 15 at RUMPUS (Bowden)