Sunday, 28 March 2021

REVIEW: Scaramouche Jones or The Seven White Masks, Online at Stream.Theatre

On the evening of December 31, 1999, we are invited into a dressing room of the ageing clown Scaramouche Jones. Born on this very day in 1899 at midnight, on the brink of his 100th birthday, he recounts his life story full of tall tales that stretch across the globe. From the time he was born to his gypsy prostitute mother in Trinidad, to his time on the high seas and enslavement, dalliance with Italian royalty and sobering experience in the concentration camps of Europe, his story is one stained by the turbulent 20th century. Being a peculiarly white-faced boy, he is also condemned to the life of a misfit from the start in a time where stability rarely exists. It takes 50 years to make the clown and 50 years to play the clown.

Available to stream on Stream.Theatre until April 1, this latest digital production of the one-man show written by Justin Butcher and directed by Ian Talbot is an immersive and spellbinding storytelling experience. Following in the footsteps of the late great Pete Postlethwaite who made the role famous, Shane Richie (EastEnders; The Entertainer; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here), stars as the titular character and takes complete ownership of it with all the innocence, pathos and tragedy required. Butcher’s lyrical prose dances effortlessly through Richie while the simplicity and restraint of Talbot’s direction and the production design by Andrew Exeter create an intimate portal into a century uncertain in every way.

The name Scaramouche comes from a 16th-century stock bouffant commedia dell’arte character who traditionally combines traits from the Zanni (servent) and Il Capitano characters and possess the skill of wriggling out of all the multitude of dramas they find themselves in. This depiction of Scaramouche conjured up by Butcher and brought to life by Richie, humanises him with the gravitas of the human condition yet allows the character to maintains a lightness both physically and lyrically as he floats through his memories. There at times lacks a level of physical finesse one might expect from the body of a clown, however, Richie masterfully transforms into a vessel of joyful naivety and sadness to combat this.

The filming of the production constantly cuts between standard high definition shots and the illusion of watching the action through a 90’s home video recorder. The latter offers an ominous element. The diminishing battery bar and countdown from the time and date hidden in the corners of the frame remind us that time moves on and runs out. The set is dressed effectively by metallic red foil, simply adding to the heightened reality of the play while seven inflated red balloons represent the seven masks adopted by the clown through his life and their ephemeral nature. Overall the production values create a cinematic experience while maintaining faithfulness to the work as a stage production.

A clown uses his weaknesses as a weapon of laughter. We are all clowns, this is what makes the journey of Scaramouche through the complexities of the 20th century both an absurd and very human story.

Scaramouche Jones or The Seven White Masks is streaming from Friday 26th March – Sunday 11th April 2021. Access Tickets are £15 (plus booking fees) per stream and can be purchased online at

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: NA | Price of Ticket: £15
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