Pete Postlethwaite, Scaramouche Jones

Review in Issue 14-4 | Winter 2002

Millennium Eve 1999. In the backstage area of a circus sounds of applause and traditional circus music can be heard. Enter Scaramouche Jones, played by Pete Postlethwaite, a clown as old as the century, born in Trinidad of an English father and a Trinidadian prostitute, who then proceeds to re-enact his life as a clown, ‘50 years to make the clown, 50 years to play the clown’, through the horrors, privations and absurdities of the 20th Century, including a stint as a gravedigger in a Croatian concentration camp in the 2nd World War, where he found he had a talent for clowning, amusing the children as they are led to their death.

This solo performance is a tour de force by Pete Postlethwaite, a superb actor, who, with subtle gestural and vocal inflections, presents the heart of darkness at the core of humanity, whilst removing his clown’s motley to reveal an everyman for the 20th century.

However, Justin Butcher’s script, although containing some wonderful storytelling, is overlong and tends towards the mawkish and sentimental. Furthermore, the circus tent design is static and old-fashioned, and creates a very literal space to explore the ‘seven white masks of the clown’.

What is more problematic is that in a show which depends on the clown, Pete Postlethwaite makes a few vague, overly literal and hackneyed gestures to convey his act. Consequently, what could have been an exciting and thought-provoking piece is ultimately timid and rather insipid, neither fully realised as a fable nor thoroughly explored as storytelling.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-4
p. 29