Bringing circus to the theatre

“My girlfriend has a fear of clowns. She says it stems from a traumatic experience when she was younger and watched Stephen King’s It. So when I told her I had gotten us both tickets to see the clown based theatre company Le Navet Bete at Plymouth’s Barbican theatre, she had her reservations!

Le Navet Bete are not clowns in that stereotypical sense however, there is no white make-up or bad magic tricks here, merely 4 fantastic performers blending a childlike enthusiasm and energy along with some clever physical comedy to create one of the most hilarious live shows I have seen.

Once Upon A Western is, unsurprisingly, a western. It’s set in the town of Kidneystone and plays host to an array of hysterical and varied characters including Mayor Naise, newly appointed Sherriff Rudy, Billy Poop-in-the-Well, and my personal favourite Loco Pedro. There must have been 20-30 different characters running all around the stage at various times, all expertly played by the cast of only 4. This of course leads to each of the performers chopping and changing costumes (and accents) extremely fast and frequently and at times this caused the show to become a bit haphazard! This completely worked in the context of the show though, only adding to its hectic and crazed energy that carried the clowns through the 2 hour runtime.

An outstanding opening and introductory sequence started things on a high and the performer’s energy rarely let up throughout. There were some lovely changes of pace however, such as Sherriff Rudy’s song in the first half which was a definite highlight for me. The beginning of the second half of the show perhaps lacked a bit of life as the audience came back from the interval, however the performers soon remedied that by choosing 4 lucky (or unlucky!) audience members to come up on the stage and dance with them.

The way the performers reacted to the live audience was fantastic. They were always aware that it is a live theatre piece and managed to interact and converse with the audience whilst telling their story. This created a show that was always changing as the performers improvised, which for me happily emphasised theatre’s live aspect, distinguishing it from anything you could ever see on a television screen.

My girlfriend is still afraid of clowns; however we both agreed that it’s a disservice to compare Le Navet Bete with your stereotypical circus performer. They transcend that definition and create outstanding physical theatre full of comedy and fun, revelling in its live-ness and providing an amazing experience suitable for both kids and their parents.”

Written by Connor Clarke, Barbican Theatre’s Arts Force member


If you want to experience a Le Navet Bete show for yourself, you’re in luck!

‘A Christmas Carol’ will be showing at Barbican Theatre from 7th – 24th December. Tickets from £9 are available to buy onlinefrom the B-Bar or by calling the box office on 01752 267131.