Monday, 30 September 2019

Jofus and The Plank - Comedy Review

What: Jofus and The Plank
When: 24- 29 September 2019
Where: The Burrow
Created and performed by: Lily Fish
Directed by: Lily Fish and Kimberley Twiner
Lily Fish
Straight out of all the great schools of clowning steps Jofus, a clown character created and performed by Lily Fish. The odd little love child of Harlequin and the Umbilical Brothers, and following in the tradition of Mr Bean, Jofus takes us on an adventurous new tale about The Big Bad Wolf with The Plank as the only ally.

The tale of Jofus and The Plank begins with the expectation of a visit from Uncle Kevin. A very excited Jofus makes a batch of short bread cookies. Uncle Kevin rings to tell Jofus he will be late, but the smell of the cookies permeates the air and comes to the nostrils of a very hungry Big Bad Wolf.

Thus begins an adventure tale told through mime, sound, half muttered words, and The Plank. When The Big Bad Wolf enters the kitchen Jofus jumps out of the (unusually high) kitchen window and plummets down the side of a very tall building. With the intervention of a very prolific egg-laying bird and a balloon Jofus desperately tries to elude The Wolf but it all comes down to a final showdown. Will Jofus defeat The Wolf or will Jofus become dinner?

Fish has as wealth of classical clowning training and experience and for Jofus she leans heavily into the Commedia traditions. Add to that some exemplary mime skills and The Plank becomes an extraordinary vehicle to embody the journey. It is a phone, the windows of the building, a balloon string, The Wolf's slavering tongue, the smell of biscuits wafting in the air or the stench of The Big Bad Wolf's breath and more!

There is no fourth wall to break in Jofus and The Plank. Jofus is telling us a story and speaks to us directly as both narration and narrator. Jofus is as aware of us as we are aware of Jofus. In fact some of the funniest moments are when Jofus steps out of the story to speak to us. The telephone conversation with costume designer Jofus about the ill-fitting pants is hilarious.

Unfortunately this is the part which seems to have left the children in the audience lost and restless.the gags about the paucity of Fringe production was completely over their heads and possibly went a bit too long. In fact, my major criticism of the work would be that there are many moments which indulge themselves too long.

Jofus is constantly acknowledging audience laughter and when it comes Jofus just keeps dropping in and out of the moment wanting more. It makes the show lose momentum. The idea works, but only for a finite amount of time.

Jofus and The Plank was co-devised by Po Po Mo Co partner in crime, Kimberley Twiner, and is a wonderful example of the art of clowning in the modern (or post post modern) era. Fish's skills are brilliant and with a little less induglence this show will wow the festival stages of the world if given the chance.

4 Stars

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