‘Clowns without Borders’ entertained with magic, music and mush

The little girl is twirling, dancing, eating a biscuit, throwing her legs out through the grilled handrail and running up and down the corridor at the Alliance Française café. There’s a crowd gathering here, waiting to watch clowns in action. And twenty minutes after show time, we’re still waiting.

Finally, the auditorium opens, fills out and the play begins with an introduction from Doriane Moretus, director, India, Clowns Sans Frontieres. “This is the result of a one-week clowning workshop with Indian actors,” she begins, “we’re an association of volunteers who began work in 2006. We train actors to perform in slums and with organisations that work forunderprivileged children.”

The spotlight is now on three rectangular bamboo frames wrapped in blue and green cloth, presumably the door to the stage, where a grand circus or show is about to happen. Slowly, a clown with a broom handle dawdles out. Another one follows and they start sweeping, hitting each other with the brooms and creating a racket, until the man in charge of the show, Mr. Good Day, complete with a hat and whip, enters the stage.

He calls out to one of his acts, a certain Jinglee, who is missing. The Twins enter next, in lungi-patterned tights and white shirts and perform some magic. They fight over who gets to do it, then make a ball disappear from an egg-shaped toy. One of them contorts his body before flaying his arms and crying “Magic”! And voila! The ball appears again.

The show goes on, interspersed with comedy and bits of magic. And of course, during the course of the show a love story blossoms. Jinglee, who has arrived by now, (“I’m late! I’m so sorry”) meets Booba (a rather soft-spoken clown, whose domineering sister clown, Alekha, is trying to force him to marry a certain Bumblika). Their eyes meet and you know… they fall head-over-heels in love.

And just as obviously, Jinglee’s brother opposes, but finds himself falling in love with Alekha. How the lovers win and how the performance ends, forms the story.

For an hour-long play, it’s rather entertaining, and a steady set of giggles echo right through it. It’s not just the Rudolf-the-red-nosed-reindeer like noses that keep the children and adults guffawing but the unmistakable timing and the interactivity of the characters. In one scene, Jinglee decides to leave the show and cries herself up the stairs, dragging along a bag, sneezing into a handkerchief. Her lover, Booba calls her back and she’s so excited, she happily asks one of the audience to hold the handkerchief before rushing into his arms. In another instance, the sweeper sweeps the entire first row clean, including the audience, leaving them in a fit of laughter.

The music, most of them live by Mitchel Bardaud, is pleasant and merges well with the different scenes. There are sweet moments as well, when the couples romance on stage and funny moments when Booba swallows all the love letters he writes to Jinglee, only to have her pull out yards and yards of paper from his mouth in the end.

And like all happy endings, the red-nosed couples elope, in an autorickshaw they pay too much for (‘I want Rs.300 madam,’ says the driver while Jinglee replies ‘’But we have only Rs.1,000’), while the others chase them around. And they go round and round until the spotlight fades away.

Clowns Sans Frontieres will be touring the city. “We want to bring some happiness, smiles and colour into the lives of underprivileged children,” smiles Doriane.