Photos – Antti Saukko

Laughs are made easel in The Artist, created and performed by the Aotearoa/NewZealand-born, Paris-trained and Helsinki-based clowning sensation Thom Monckton.

The show is a portrait of the artist as a fun man, incorporating balancing, juggling, ladder work and sublime mime. From the minute the show opens, the clowning banishes frowning and sets a smile on every dial.

The initial objective of The Artist in The Artist is to paint a still life of the old faithful, the fruit bowl. How simple, one would assume. But when a banana becomes appealing in its peeling, takes a bath, becomes a banana split, and births an innovative skit to the inevitable banana skin denouement, the simple becomes complex in the most absurdly comical way.

Still life gets short shrift in The Artist because still is not part of this shows vocabulary. Constant movement in a centrifugal force of controlled chaos is the criterion. Posing, painting, sketching, canvas stretching, fetching, lurching from calamity to calm, and back again, in a disarmingly disciplined play is de rigueur.

A staple gun becomes a staple of fun, a palette board becomes a ping pong paddle, a brush with frame becomes a living art installation.

Audience participation is part of the show, both in ping pong reciprocation and in a guest spot in portraiture, but there’s nothing to be apprehensive of.

The ideas are innovative, imaginative, immersive and impossibly funny, the art of clowning presented with as many facets as a diamond, where even the flaws in the gem are polished and sparkling.

The show also illustrates Mr. Monckton is dab hand at the daub, a portrait painted upside down live on stage is a marvellous side show set piece.

There’s a whole lot going on in the frame of this seemingly simple piece. It’s a much larger canvas that immediately meets the eye.

What is abundantly clear from start to finish is that The Artist is irrefutably a rib-tickling showcase of physical comedy, circus skills and hilarious ideas. Supple body, goofy charisma and all-in-the-timing precision mark it as a high performance vehicle running on high octane fooling.

Event details

Sydney Festival 2023
The Artist
Thom Monckton

Venue: Everest Theatre | Seymour Centre, NSW
Dates: 18 - 22 January 2023
Tickets: $40 – $50

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