The Living Room @ Assembly Rooms

Tragicomic clowning provides a comfortably uncomfortable space for deathly musings

Review by Rob Young | 20 Aug 2019
  • The Living Room @ Assembly Rooms

A late addition to the Fringe programme (they aren't even in the paper catalogue), Amrita Dhaliwal and Gemma Soldati are chaotically controlled clowns with a satisfying oddity of an hour about life, death and goldfish. Here they play the Accountants of Death, totting up clog-poppers on a blackboard and eventually pondering their own powerful experience with death in life.

Greeting their audience with a comforting whisper and going through the rules of The Living Room, Dhaliwal and Soldati – dressed like Miss Havisham and a Reservoir Dog – create a space that is admirably comfortable, prodding and poking their spectators without ever alienating them. But make no mistake, this is a bizarre show, one that some more fair-weather Fringe attendees will dismiss as pretentious nonsense.

The fingerprints of Dr Brown and other American clowns are all over this, and anyone who has seen Natalie Palamides in the last few years will recognise the abstract narrative, absurd prop-comedy, circularity and mess-making. Clown shows of this ilk can be overly academic and theoretical to the detriment of humour – a mid-show séance of sorts, though powerful, threatens to derail the comedy completely. Yet the pair find pockets of funny throughout the show, be it in a funeral for Cher or in an accomplished vodka-glugging dumb show that has Dhaliwal drinking drops of booze from the ceiling. 

Elsewhere, Dhaliwal and Soldati make it clear that human beings are ruled by sex and violence, hence some lovely skits on this tightrope: an invitation to kiss/slap the performers; a horrible reminder of our cancerous bodies; a handful of ‘petit mort’ groans. Ultimately, fans of coherent narrative or poignant comments about death and the universe will leave disappointed, but this haunting, Beckettian sequence of bits is exactly the kind of thing people should be making room for at the Fringe.

The Living RoomAssembly Rooms (Front Room), until 24 Aug (not 20), 9.20pm, £10-12