Julia Masli @ Monkey Barrel

Julia Masli's hit show is one of the most alarming and affecting clown shows you'll see this year

Review by Laurie Presswood | 21 Aug 2023
  • Julia Masli

To a soundtrack of eerie synths, Julia Masli emerges, dressed in the bustle and white face paint of a Victorian ghost. Two plastic baby legs sprout from her top hat: they will not once be referenced in the chaotic soup of the next hour.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha is an exercise in bringing people together; Masli’s attempt to re-weave ruptured strands of community. The bulk of the show is audience participation, our doe-eyed host moving between chairs, asking us to share our problems with her. Then, where she can, she sources a solution from a member of the audience. Do you need somewhere to live? She asks who has a spare room in London. Are you going bald? She brandishes scissors and finds someone willing to part with a lock. 

Brilliantly, Masli predicts what problems will be common among her audience and prepares for them: when one man says he is tired she goes backstage and re-emerges holding pillow and duvet. She lays them in the middle of the stage and commands him to nap.

When you ask a group of adults what their biggest problems are you will inevitably come up against some difficult themes; Masli’s willingness to let the show be unfunny, even sombre, for lengthy periods, flag it as the unmistakable work of a clown. She leans into this, probing well past the point of comfort for some in the room; the result is a tone of openness and vulnerability that affects every participant.

Masli actively seeks to let these darker problems breathe. She tells the room that sometimes she feels objectified: then she asks woman after woman in the audience if they ever feel the same way. “When? What happened?”, she pushes, holding out until she’s satisfied that someone has answered honestly. Not all problems have a solution, she seems to say. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them.

Julia Masli: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, Monkey Barrel (MB4), until 27 Aug, 1.30am, £10