SCARAMOUCHE JONES or THE SEVEN WHITE MASKS: Justin Butcher
Riverside Studios: Box Office 020 8237 1111
Runs: 1h 30m: no interval: till 19th October
Review Ian Willox 30th September 2002
Breath taking style: wonderful to behold.
Just before the midnight that marks the end of the millennium an old Clown prepares to die. But as he does so, he gives us the performance of his life. Literally.
Pete Postlethwaite and writer Justin Butcher between them create a picaresque tragedy of a range and scale rarely attempted these days – no less than a personal recounting of a century. And they do it in breathtaking style
Scaramouche is born in a Trinidadian knocking shop at midnight at the start of the twentieth century. At six years of age he is sold to a Mombasa slaver, who in turn sells him to a West African snake charmer from whom he is saved by an Italian nobleman with designs on his body, from whom he escapes and falls in with gypsies, with whom he ends up in a concentration camp, digging mass graves while entertaining the children with his white faced clowning. And so he arrives at his final profession – the Clown Scaramouche Jones – and on the final night of the century – his final performance.
As he packs away each item of his trade – his red nose, his wig, his gloves, Scaramouche counts the white masks of experience that settled on his preternaturally pale face – the white sands of the Sahara, the white clay of the snake charmer, the ice of the Adriatic, the quicklime of the mass grave – until he arrives at the balm of his white Clown makeup. It is a strip tease of a sort unknown in Soho and wonderful to behold.
This is a night of great theatre and great writing.
Scaramouche Jones: Pete Postlethwaite
Director: Rupert Goold
Designer: Ashley Martin-Davis
Music and Sound: Adam Cork
Lighting: Mike Gunning