In this show, Joe the Clown, a small-town entertainer, heads to The Big City to chase his dreams. What does he find there? I’m honestly not sure.
The Big City combines elements of comedy, puppetry, cabaret and clowning and Joe certainly looks the part, jogging onto stage with his delightfully painted face, bouncing curls and tramp-esque finery.
There’s no shortage of energy here, but that’s also one of the show’s shortcomings: it galivants along without looking over its shoulder to make sure the audience is following.
Joe travels from the small-town stage to the bustling streets, seedy alleys and grand auditoriums of the big city, making friends and enemies along the way. At least, I think that’s what happened.
Between the story’s confusing pace and Joe’s exaggerated but not-always-believable mime work, The Big City feels stuck somewhere between real and surreal, never actually creating the sense of magic it’s clearly striving for.
There is some believability here though.
Joe’s costume is charming, as are many of the props.
There’s a surprisingly emotive performance from a marionette and, at one point, I felt genuine sympathy for a suitcase.
The hand-drawn backdrop of the city skyline is a nice touch and a clever way to show the passage of a time.
It’s just a shame that it’s the closest the show comes to creating a sense of place.
The sound design is also solid (as you’d expect in a show that is mostly mime), with Joe’s musical numbers being the high point of the show.
In fact, by the third musical number, the show really seemed to be finding its feet; the lead growing more comfortable in Joe’s oversized shoes.
Which gives me hope that this show might really shine given little more time in the spotlight, because there is an interesting story here. It’s just a little hard to hear sometimes.