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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE CLOWN JEWELS (article first published : 2001-07-7)

The audiences is greeted by an earnest bespectacled man in a thatch of mousy hair carrying a clipboard, ushering them through the door and miming fun comments behind their backs as they take their seats – particularly if they’re bald! In fact, if you’re losing your hair or have a way-out hairstyle, you’re fair game with this comedian. This ruse of being on stage as the audience enters does mean you don’t have to stand in draughty wings waiting for the show to begin, you’re in control from the start.

This is Alan Committee, who incorporates humour, mime and physical theatre in his production The Clown Jewels directed by Gaetan Schmid currently playing on the Fringe of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. In this show, which he performs with Shirley Kirshmann, he pays tribute to some of the greatest physical comedians that have inspired him.

Together they perform a clever trapeze number and a running gag is his role as a triangle player in an orchestra frantically counting the bars towards his all-important entry in Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March, only to be upstaged by Shirley at the end. Another orchestral item is performed to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in which he enacts every conductor’s nightmare of losing his place in the score.

He presents entertaining sketches in the style of Charlie Chaplain, Buster Keaton and Benny Hill before moving on to Monty Python and one of John Cleese’s most hilarious scenes in Fawlty Towers. Then it’s Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau and finally Rowan Atkinson, which is possibly his best interpretation of them all.

In a tongue-twisting patter song he names 100 visual comedians; offers a hilarious crash course in contemporary dance, and sends up the lovers in Titanic. In another humorous scene, he and Shirley battle for possession of the television remote control. – Caroline Smart




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