Though I keep a strict diet of visual art here, I am breaking that shit to tell you about a little performance art gold mine, right in the Bywater, in New Orleans.
Last night I put my shoes on, as one will, and went to see the ‘No Ring Circus” with my daughter, Samantha.
Sam has a genius for people. She owns and runs The Crepe Cart in the French Market. In her countless hours spinning delicious cheesy pancakes, her eye for obscure beauty busily reviews a daily, book-sized menu. She met Daphne and Eli Rose in her capacity as cultural curator, and instantly wanted more.
The No Ring Circus is more. More heart than a Hoarder Cardiologist. More imagination that an afternoon hot-air ballooning over Narnia’s outlying Volcano Lands. And more raw emotion than that Teenage Argentinian Ex you’ve tried so hard to forget. It’s a good show.
The opening scene is, and I feel safe in stating this, the funniest damn attempted suicide you will encounter this decade. Sad clown Matt Duckett slays in this unassuming presentation of failure within failure. It dovetails flawlessly into a routine involving a music box.
Daphne jumps in next, wheeling the crank on said box with manic intensity. Eli joins her with a honed haughtiness the quality of which surpasses even the most accomplished fourteen-year-old’s skill set. The two in play take the stage with unapologetic force. They hold you right fucking smart in their hand-made absurdist vice grips. Their send-ups to condescension, submission, and rebellion crash inside your soft squashy cerebrum and scatter your resignation like so many windshield shards. This in their opening number.
Next a neat and bearded clown, David Symons, enters with an accordion, patching together your frayed vulnerabilities from first sight. He sits, spotlight, anticipation. Before he sings, his practiced fingers tease well-worn, compliant keys into first a gentle then an insistent whispering. You may hear different words but last night, the keys seemed to say:
“Why the fuck have you been staying away from the theater for so long? Been neglecting your soul, you beautiful source of love, you?” Or something along those lines. You’d have had to be made entirely out of tin to have missed it.
He plays and sings. Physically, he is pretty much in your lap. It’s a small dark room and you are together by proximate law. Mercifully, he is an accomplished musician, a sensitive performer, and the music in your face constitutes an invitation. He amplifies his voice through tinny portable electronics, and it works. In a re-appearance later, he will do a Nihlist Rhapsody which will floor you. Contrary to the rythem of exits and entrances, I insistently applauded him.
Speaking of music, the score is original, and qualifies as an entire stand-alone sub-show. Creepy melodies are used as a compelling tool throughout the evening. The music haunts and bewhilders. Random pseudo-fifties radio announcer voices bubble up from an aural cauldron of New Italian Clown Opera, whatever that is, subterranian ambient train whistle, and secret distilled emotive secretions. There are perfectly placed bells, too, you’ll know em when you hear em.
The No Ring Circus trafficks in symbolism offered with intelligent presentation. Aspects of yourself are portrayed in unsettling and challenging scenarios. Eli mentions that: “Clowns should embody an important unconscious struggle within the performer themselves, but one that also resonates within the audience.” This skilled offering does exactly that: as audience, we witness hauntingly familiar conflicts, new to us in this stage wrapping, but known on deeper, quieter levels.
These four creatures are doing deep clown work. It is real.
Photos by Jian Bastille