The tale of Scaramouche Jones, a clown on the cusp of death, sees an ageing performer tell of the adventures, trials and tribulations of his life.
Set on the eve of the millennium, Scaramouche recounts his last 99 years, taking us across continents and oceans; introducing us to Arab traders, African snake charmers and Italian princes. Justin Butcher’s performance is energetic and animated, and his crazed eyes hold your attention well. The writing (also by Butcher) is well crafted, perhaps overly so, and the rambling plot is delightfully implausible. Indeed so unbelievable is the tale that one wonders if Scaramouche’s monologue is in fact one last performance; a final conjuring trick of fantasy, rather than the unmasking of the truth.
Yet Scaramouche’s tale has a darker side, his makeup covering a life of tragedy and pain. From the outset we learn of his gypsy mother, a ‘bottomless receptacle for the semen of many nations’ selling herself to sailors in
It is only his pale clown-like skin which alleviates some of his misfortune. Yet these events serve merely as misfortunes to the clown, and the play could have just as easily been set in the nineteenth century. While references to symbols of empire such as Elgar, Laurence of Arabia and Disraeli abound, there is no serious attempt to comment on or satirize the many events Scarmouche’s life touches. This would have added an edge to an otherwise sharp and well written play.