Doctor Brown: Befrdfgth / Doctor Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger Soho Theatre, London


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The Independent Culture

For his London lap of honour, this year’s Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award winner, Doctor Brown, is letting his inner child run free for the benefit of all the family, with both an adult and children's show.

Brown is the clown alter ego of American Phil Burgers. Trained at the Ecole Philippe Gaulier, alumni of which include Simon McBurney and Sacha Baron Cohen, Burgers believes that clowns are happy to be bad, to fail and generally to be in  a state of badness or , as he describes it, “the shit.” Previously this belief was rather imposed on his audience, but in Bedfrdgth is skilfully induced.

The rhythm of the show is established by Brown’s peek-a-boo opening where he gradually comes out towards us from backstage, still from behind the billowing curtain that he is swathed in for protection. After swiping a few items form audience members in this guise we wonder who needs protecting. But that’s this clown’s way of asking us to play with him. Once he’s sure of us, he coyly sets about telling his stories.

Short uncomplicated mimes build to longer form artfully crafted vignettes.

Brown plays out a low status-high status scenario where a slave asks a soldier for money while intermittently being whipped by his rather nonchalant master behind him. Another power struggle takes place between a matador and a bull, but with unexpected consequences.

The finale using a "volunteer" is the triumph of his teachings - a punter (fairly) willing and able to ape Brown's bike ride soundscape, much to everyone's delight.

As you might expect, there are no shortage of willing hands in Brown's children's show. Everyone seems to want to show a more hapless version of Brown's adult persona how to put on Wellington boots ("the other way!" shriek his audience in unison) or play tennis, two of the chores on the good doctor's list for his day.

Stuart Bowden's singing tiger is essentially carer to the silent clown, and our guide to the dysfunctional behaviour that the kids seem to love getting vocal about. No one loves revelling in badness more than the young.

However, it again is the ability to coax the immature from young at heart adults that is highlighted here. Brown can barely contain his joy when he finds a real doctor on the front row and gets him to perform all manner of roles, including providing a beatbox rhythm to a breakdancing tiger while Brown accompanies on a kettle.