Cabaret & variety review: Grumble: Sex Clown Saves the World

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Betty Grumble is an Australian sex clown on a mission.

Star rating: ***

Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

She preaches a gospel of radical queer love. She rocks a trash-drag aesthetic of waste paper, outsized blonde curls and warped-baby-doll make-up. And she gleefully uses all parts of her body (and, it seems, some of its byproducts) to spread her word.

Grumble calls it “arguably altruistic adult entertainment” and it locates her work in the neighbourhood of Penny Arcade or Christeene. The basic message is right on, encompassing personal empowerment, social injustice and ecological catastrophe, and the overall vibe is down-and-dirty fun.

Some set-pieces are powerful, particularly one number in which an aerobics-themed dance routine evolves into a fight-or-flight response to street-level misogyny, and another that presents a ­grotesque parody of standard-issue burlesque glamour. Just as often, though, this feels more like a well-meaning lecture than a really funny clown at work, leaning on straight-faced appeals to political awareness or offering moments such as Grumble gazing at a globe to report the death of the last black rhino or literally entreating us to boo the patriarchy.

It seems a strange thing to say of so anatomically unabashed a performance but the phrase that comes to mind is “show, don’t tell”.

Until 28 August. Tomorrow 8:45pm.