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Published on Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Nothing quite says funny as well as guys in tights. And ukuleles. I can’t explain it but it works; there’s just something about spindly legs and the uber-cheerful strains of the ukulele that make me laugh. This show is all about the laughs, and is full of both the chuckles and the belly kind as the clowns from Zemblanity entertain and obstruct.

Hans, the wide eyed boy from an unpronounceable German village, is on a serious quest and will not be thwarted; he has found love and then, gulp, unfortunately lost her. As the innocent abroad, he encounters danger and confusion in the form of a motley bunch of clowns - with the story drawing on all good quest traditions. Zemblanity however works best when it departs from the quest. Things that ought to stay still don’t. A side story about a lamb named Roy is absurdly delightful, as are some of the lyrics from the musical interludes. Love is simultaneously offered, then eaten and seriously mourned. A few more of these kinds of diversions would overflow the cup of fun.

The imagery is great. Embracing the macabre and fully utilising the Bedlam Theatre space, the performers loom over Hans in moments of dark intent and then undercut it with hilarity and horseplay. Hans himself looks the son of “the son of man”; the similarities to Renee Magritte’s painting of a man wearing a bowler hat and jacket are considerable, and the clowns are all vividly and individually attired.

With its steady stream of acrobatics, inanities, clowning fun and songs about potatoes, it’s very enjoyable entertainment. In addition to lovely singing voices, Hans and the clowns interact with and keep the audience thoroughly engaged. There’s a rough charm to Zemblanity; the boys from Le Navet Bete have a winning way.

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