Scaramouche Jones or the Seven White Masks by Justin Butcher. Stream.Theatre to 11 April 2021. 4****. William Russell.

Following the footsteps of Pete Postlethwaite is a risky thing to do – he created the role of this classic tale of the clown who leads a life of tears – but Shane Richie, East Enders and game show actor. does so with great distinction. The production directed by Ian Talbot was filmed at the Union Theatre in Southwark and will be on line until 11 April 2021. In a way, like all one man plays, it could be something better enjoyed on radio, but with an actor who can hold the audience on their own it becomes a dazzling piece of theatre. Scaramouche, a pale white oyster of a creature, was born to a prostitute in Trinidad on 31 December 1899 has lived for a hundred years,and been, a bit like Zelig, present at all the great and sometimes terrible events of the century.
It is now 31 December 1999 and seated in his dressing room he strips off the makeup – the seven masks of the title – as he awaits death. Born in Trinidad, child of a prostitute, he is sold after her death into slavery by the priest taking him to the orphanage in Barbados. He sails to Africa, becomes the white faced performer who attracts the audiences for a snake charmer,is passed on to a gay Italian prince, meets Mussolini, lives through the wars of the century, and gets sent to a concentration camp in Croatia during the second one where to survive he entertains the children, the camp clown, as they wait to be killed.
After he is excused of any crimes at Nuremberg he acquires the surname Jones and is sent to the land he has always dreamed of reaching, the land of his father. There, after half a century of words he becomes a mime. But now it is off with the motley and the end of the show and the words spill forth in torrents as he prepares for the curtain to come down. Richie, talking to himself, confiding in the camera, strips off the makeup and creates a clown to weep for. Monologues can all too often sound like radio plays torn from their natural home, but in the right hands with the right director they become enthralling pieces of theatre and Justin Butcher’s celebrated play – it started life performed by Pete Postlethwaite twenty years ago – is in safe hands.

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