A five-minute walk from the venue's older counterpart, the New Red Lion is a comfortable pub, for this production swathed in the red drapes of a circus big top. With a cluttered stage set at one end, the main room is filled with tables and couches whilst Leo Steele's lighting design does an impressive job of creating atmosphere.
Set on the eve of the new millennium, the fantastical script acts as a biography for Scaramouche Jones, born on the stroke of midnight in Trinidad a century before. A clown, played by Tom Daplyn, Scaramouche knows he is close to death and recounts the tale of his long and intrepid life, punctuated by the formation a series of seven white masks, the last that of a clown.
Delivered in an animated fashion, the greasepaint drips from Daplyn's forehead and chin. This is an impressive solo performance of what at times is an overly sentimental story. Strongest at the points where it touches on the rawness of human emotions, the clown's mask slips to reveal the tragedy beneath. References to the geopolitical climate occasionally dilute the narrative, with the revelations surrounding the holocaust running the risk of courting offence if not so beautifully performed.
We watch the piece draw to a close as the entertainer, having spent "fifty years playing the clown, fifty years making the clown" is spent. Despite some weaknesses in Justin Butcher’s script, there is no doubt this is a brave piece of work.