People often say they’re scared of clowns. What they usually mean is they’re scared of a thick layer of white greasepaint covering a face with a red nose and overexaggerated red mouth sitting beneath a green wig. Julia Masli is not that type of clown and Choosh, part of Physical Fest 2023, is like nothing you’ve seen before, either in or out of a big top.
Masli has worked with dramaturg, Annie Siddons, to create a surreal and unique homage to migration, hunger, desperation felt during a job search, and love at first sight, whether that is for another human or a hot dog.
The set is simple: an orange suitcase sits on a floral platform, but of course the simplicity is not what it seems as the suitcase is crammed with Masli’s props and tricks. She bursts onto the stage with an inside out umbrella, which would be useless if the rain was coming from the sky as it usually does, instead of from her mouth. As it is coming from her mouth though, the turned-out umbrella is perfectly positioned to catch the raindrops.
She introduces the audience to her dog, a puppet painted onto her hand, and uses her strong performance skills to build an emotional attachment between the audience and this dog. This builds up to allow for some excellent comedy horror and audience participation.
Site specific comedy about Liverpool culture deepen Masli’s connection with the audience and create a nice emotional connection between Masli and the city, which itself has historically been home to many migrants, some of whom were on their way to America. Plenty of improv based on audience reactions enhances this and adds a nice, personalised feeling to the show which inevitably must be different every night.
Good use of lighting and sound effects add to the atmosphere of the piece. Masli’s vocal talent allows her to create various sound effects of her own and the Jonny Woolly’s sound design is used to comedic effect when sounds are purposely misaligned with actions. A wedding between Masli’s right and left legs is a particular highlight and perhaps more performers ought to make a point of gazing in fear at the theatre critic in the audience framed by a bright baby pink toilet seat. It was definitely the most memorable reaction I’ve had from a performer breaking the fourth wall and zooming in on the telltale notebook and pen.
Masli is an extremely talented clown, whose physicality is excellent. Her compelling connection with the audience allows her to bring the entire theatre on a journey into her mind, whether they want to or not. Although she points out that as viewers of the performance, we do have free will, everybody does exactly what she wants them to do. Her cheeky demeanour fills Choosh with a sense of joy and play which is sadly often missing in theatre today.
Choosh was performed as part of Physical Fest 2023. Information and tickets are available here https://www.tmesistheatre.com/physical-fest/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 3rd July 2023
North West End UK Rating: