Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Traditional Circus makes a comeback

It has been said that satire died the day that Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, but UKIP's Traditional Circus Roadshow has become a handy reminder that British humour has always balanced on the razor's edge between sea-side postcard sauciness and anti-establishment vitriol. Taking their name from a pair of radical live artists, The Kippers are bringing back the beloved clowns of the English circus and adding a rough hewn acrobatic energy.

Moving away from the Big Top was a bold move, but TCR has
Private Eye wins
become a roving side-show, heading to towns that have not seen such tomfoolery since the 1970s. Their use of venues more commonly associated with political discussions serves as a reminder that most parliaments have become rest-homes for the delirious, a sanctuary for men who would otherwise be shouting about conspiracies on the corner of Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street and smelling of sweat and piss. And in a culture defined by the short, sharp snatch of soundbites and Youtube, The Kippers recognise that 'street theatre' needs not be invisible nor undocumented.

The ringmaster, Nigel Farage, announces the circus open by arriving in an aeroplane, which swiftly crashes into a field. This integration of the spectacular and the absurd reveals a sensitivity to the importance of Hollywood Blockbusters, giving the audience a big banf before the action has even begun. Less successfully, the attempt to explain immigration through the old 'too many clowns in the car trick' fails, mainly because the clowns forgot to read the instruction manual to make the doors fall off properly.

The magic of TCR is the post-modern pastiche and collage of out-dated genres: Mike Read tries to appropriate the calypso in a revival of the aesthetic from The Black and White Minstrels, while the MEP for Scotland recalls Frankie Howerd's self-deprecating monologues, apparently forgetting his lines. Farage himself picks up on Charlie Chaplin's memorable impersonation of Hitler, but adds his own twist: his speeches use totalitarian rhetorical techniques to challenge totalitarian power. It a meta-layer worthy of Ontroerend Goed.

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