Behind the Greasepaint: Fisticuffs

3.5 stars

Sven Hopla delights in a one man variety show of clowning, circus performance, and spoken narrative.

Fisticuffs is far and away amongst the most surprising shows on offer at FRINGE WORLD, with the trappings of circus clowning swiftly shifting into something far deeper and more insightful.

A voiceless opening scene develops into a revealing look behind the greasepaint as Hopla exposes the inherent pain—physical and emotional—of performance.

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

This show is ever so meta, with the performer at times purely engaging the audience and, later, specifically requesting their attention. Hopla effectively breaks down the barriers between himself and his audience, holding them in a state of both familiarity and avid appreciation.

Hopla's range of movement both as clown and aerialist conveys the subtleties of the artforms he's brought together in this performance.

A few technical misses fail to derail the entertainment, as the crowd is laughing one minute and feeling curiously sympathetic emotions towards the plight of crabs the next.

The spoken sections of the show suffered from a lack of projection, with the subtler pieces being difficult to hear. This is intentional in parts, and that's used to good effect, but limiting in others.

Fisticuffs is a deliciously fringey show. It’s as aware of itself and its peculiarities as much as it's a legitimately impressive set of circus feats.

There's pain behind these eyes, and desperation. Our host is both drill sergeant and torture victim, and finally, the audience. By the close of the show, Hopla has certainly managed to create something of beauty that audiences can feel as connected with as the performer does.

Tickets available from the FRINGE WORLD website.