Dance review: Kombini, Underbelly’s Circus Hub, Edinburgh

Somewhere along the line, clowns have garnered a reputation for being either a bit stupid or a bit scary.

Kombini, Underbellys Circus Hub (Venue 360)
Kombini, Underbellys Circus Hub (Venue 360)

Kombini, Underbelly’s Circus Hub, Edinburgh * * * *

Perhaps some of them are, but the two stars of Kombini are cut from a very different cloth.

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Taking their inspiration from the rich history of traditional Russian clowning (think Slava of Snowshow fame, but with added pathos), Montreal-based company Les Foutoukours has created a show that’s both funny and poignant – often at the same time.

Performers Rémi Jacques and Jean-Félix Bélanger start by roaming the crowd, offering us popcorn from small paper bags. Most people refuse, but later we’ll have little choice in the matter.

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Lit by a spotlight, a telephone on the wall starts to ring – and so begins our emotional investment. Talking a kind of babbling nonsense language, with the odd audible word, the duo indicate their hope for a phone call offering work. Rubbing their fingers and thumb together to indicate cash, we recognise their need and instantly root for them. The same applies later, when it’s clear one of them is looking for love. That’s the power of good clowning, the performer pulls you in to their world, allowing you to feel their emotion whilst reminding you of your own response in a similar situation.

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What Jacques and Bélanger are also very good at, is making us laugh. In particular during a hilarious scene where the aforementioned popcorn makes a re-appearance. Masters of slapstick, with pretend hits and falls subtly incorporated, they also slot a few hand balances into the act.

At an hour and 15 minutes long, Kombini would benefit from a trim, to keep the action tight. But it’s still a privilege to spend time with this adorable twosome.

Until 24 August