Scaramouche Jones (Tour – Newcastle)

The People’s Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

“50 years to make the clown, 50 years to play the clown.”

Millennium Eve and a pale-faced clown steps out of the circus ring for the last time. His final performance come and gone, he waits alone for midnight to strike. The toll will mark his own centenary. The 100 years have been a vivid odyssey of extraordinary adventures that have taken him across the world – witnessing crumbling Empires and some of the darkest moments in history.

Esra Taf Theatre and JHRMusics have hit on a gem here. Justin Butcher’s one-man play is a tale of human adventure, of humour and tragedy.

Gordon Russell as the titular clown gives a mesmerising solo performance. Don’t be deceived by the fact that this is a monologue. Butcher’s rich and intricate script is epic – spanning across continents and cultures – and requires a tour-de-force performance to match. From the moment Russell appears, straight from the Big Top in his red nose and battered, oversized shoes, we are hooked and cannot look away.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, at times desperately moving, we watch as Scaramouche peels back the ‘seven white masks’ that create him. It is a strange destiny indeed, marked with “fear and delight”.

Simple but inventive staging means proceedings do not become over cluttered and the atmosphere created by the original ‘sound-scape’ composed for the show is nicely judged.

Coming in at just over and hour and a half, with no interval, it is a testament to the play and the power of the performance that I did not want Big Ben to strike and the lights to finally go down on Scaramouche.

Haunting, memorable and emotional, this should not be missed.