Tag Archives: Clodhopper Theatre






Online via Applecart Arts until 23rd October

Reviewed – 22nd October 2020



“The show is something you fall into enjoying, like a warm bath”


Anxiety. Depression. Paranoia. Little could ClodHopper Theatre, the creators of Clown-Hearted, know when devising the piece just how relevant its themes would be in the pandemic-hit atmosphere of late 2020.

Like many current shows, Clown-Hearted is about mental health. The stage is initially set with one down-hearted clown (Leonie Spilsbury) in a highly covetable cloud-patterned onesie, surrounded by scattered boxes representing the various positive and negative pieces of her mental life.

A theatrical exploration of mental health is something that could easily become very dark or clichéd, but this is a work that offers something altogether different. Our clown begins by shuffling the boxes about, making some light gags and setting up a few visual metaphors. The piece takes a little while to fully get into, but soon after the entrance of the second clown (Owen Jenkins) it really gets into its swing.

Asking for help from an omniscient virtual assistant (subtitles are provided), the two clowns take a journey into self-care. The only dialogue coming from either Alexa or Siri is nice ironic contrast to the open simplicity of the characters. Through limited but effective props and their own actions (movement directed by Julia Cave) the clowns experiment with several mood-boosting activities, including exercise, meditation, and exploring nature.

Devised by Spilsbury and Jenkins, the show’s structure may seem a little formulaic, but it works – leading the way into an emotional odyssey that is wonderfully and entirely unpretentious. The performance doesn’t labour over the metaphors set up early on, but instead moves forward into each joyful skit with new energy, ending in a place that is far more wholesome than expected.

The show is something you fall into enjoying, like a warm bath, although there are enough witty and on-trend references from the virtual assistants to make the audience realise the work is clever, too. And of course it is funny, but in a welcoming rather than exclusionary way, with humour everyone can enjoy.

The work of the actors is complemented by the sound and lighting (Will Alder) and most significantly by the musical choices. Many familiar songs feature – from Ponchielli’s ‘Dance of the Hours’ to ‘Under the Sea’ from The Little Mermaid – and each of these tunes perfectly suits the play’s comforting and uplifting tone. There are also some advantages that come from having had the show filmed, as the camera work (Joseph Ed Thomas and Peter Moreton) gives us some nice close-ups of the actors’ facial expressions that serve to emphasise some of the jokes.

Watching Clown-Hearted is almost an act of self-care in itself; the capers of the clowns are soothing and easy to watch, and there is real warmth brimming out from both of the performers. While you sometimes wonder if some of the clowning would be better if it was more exaggerated, perhaps it is the very easy-going nature of the two characters that makes the show work so well.

In a time when so many of us know what it feels like to struggle with mental health, the play is the perfect pick-me-up and well worth spending the time watching.



Reviewed by Vicky Richards


Clown Hearted

Online via Applecart Arts until 23rd October


Previously reviewed from Dazed New World Festival 2020:
Imaginarium | ★★★ | October 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews