A Funeral for Clowns (Zanni Arte Productions) is a must-see at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival. Written by Vincenzo Aliberti and directed by Teodoro Dragonieri, this quirky, funny, and ultimately poignant show is about a funeral.
It just so happens that everyone to grace the stage is a clown.
The clowns themselves are whimsical and fun – especially Marcel Dragonieri who plays a truckload of characters coming in turns to pay their respects. He embraces each role completely, whether a clown drill sergeant, a clownish pilot on a scooter, or a mime.
That said, the costumes are superb – appropriately over the top, yet still able to reveal character.
For example, the funeral is attended by a “professional mourner” (Joanne D’Angelo) whose primary characteristic is that of a slick businessman. He sports a 1950s-esque wig, and a pencil-thin moustache.
The audience-favourite was Noaman (Kat Letwin), who plays the narcoleptic, wispy-voiced, brother of the deceased.
As the family of The Dead Clown (Geoffrey Armour) come up to the podium one at a time to say their eulogies – they enter into smoothly-transitioned flashbacks to reveal their relationship with The Dead Clown.
Noaman’s relationship with the deceased is by far the most developed. When Noaman talks about his narcolepsy, he remembers The Dead Clown saying, “It’s better to sleep standing up than live your life laying down.”
It’s this kind of dialogue, and the character development in between, that makes A Funeral for Clowns the best Fringe play I’ve seen.
The only drawback is the beginning of the play, that spends too much of its time with Mille (Valerie Cina) and Poppa (Isaac Kessler) arguing. The arguments quickly grow old, and seem to forget that the characters are clowns.
Not that the clowns onstage are always hankering for a laugh – but even the most sentimental scenes are bursting with energy, and have something of the whimsical.
A Funeral for Clowns is about memory, goodbyes, and both the sadness and humour in a funeral.
It also asks a startling question. Who are funerals for – the deceased or the living?
- A Funeral for Clowns plays at The Annex Theatre (736 Bathhurst St. Toronto)
- Showtimes are: Fri, July 6, 1:15pm; Sat, July 7, 7:30pm; Mon, July 9, 5:00pm; Tues, July 10, 12:30pm; Wed, July 11, 9:15pm; Fri, July 13, 9:45pm; Sat, July 14, 11:00pm
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photo by Matty Bay