nytheatre.com review by Ivanna Cullinan
April 16, 2008
Bambouk is a thoroughly goofy clown show with lots of solid circus skills that makes for a very charming evening. And what else should one expect from a production that offers the chance to purchase an autographed whoopee cushion emblazoned with the show's logo? Silliness, I tell you, endearing silliness is to be had at this show and if it is a bit under-structured, well, the big-heartedness in the performing makes up for that.
Bambouk is comprised of Bam (a more rockin', laid back, and goofy clown, Matthew Duncan) and Bouk (a more classic, precise, and genial clown, Brian Foley). They are straightforwardly there to give a show—but that can only happen when both can be located, and Bam and Bouk tend to keep missing each other. Bouk is first up as he attempts to get the show started, only to be thwarted by the late appearance of Bam. The differences become more pronounced as Bam eventually strolls in, with enormous faux rocker hair and utterly caught up in his music, perplexed by the splendid comic outrage of the exacting Bouk. Bouk is taut with concern for the way things should be, very proud of his sparkling reception bell, and not at all in sync with the lackadaisical Bam. In his turn, Bam can only hang loose and would very much like to either pump up the music, or possess Bouk's reception bell, or even better, both. It is a slim tension between them but for much of the time, it works.
Billed as a show "for people who hate clown," Bambouk is a gentle and amiable romp. It will not trigger any painful reactions to nightmares of Bozo-style clowns and it does not focus purely on clown work. There are some serious circus skills here—fine juggling, clever magic, walking on stilt poles, spinning plates, and even a bit of fluke ukulele playing. Those skills are as fundamental to the show as the clowning and it's all fun stuff. The two clowns work well by themselves, off of each other, and with the audience. Bouk is especially strong at acknowledging and incorporating those random, ambient sounds that come with a New York playing space.
The show moves circus-like through a progression of acts that showcase their manifold talents. However, with that structure, it is somewhat hard to create and maintain an arc, and that leads me to my one quibble with the evening—while I was entertained, what was the point behind the length of the show? There is a slightly leisurely pace that doesn't help either. As the tension between the clowns does not build nor is there a story to the evening, by the end I was beginning to get a bit restless. Yet Bambouk is engaging and their showmanship largely does sustain engagement even when the structure of the piece does not.
Another very strong element to the show is the audience participation. Rest assured there is nothing that will scar or embarrass anyone. Bouk and Bam take very good care of the people they bring on stage. Remarkably, they manage to bring folks into the midst of some impressive tricks and incorporate them well. The height of mayhem exists when at one point, the entire audience is playing a sort of beach ball from their seats while onstage plates are spinning and clowns are dashing and a few audience members are assisting onstage in the chaos. There are a few other instances of audience participation and there is a point when if Bam doesn't watch himself, he might be out of a job!
If you are looking for a pleasant time that will appeal to a range of tastes, Bambouk is an entertaining evening, affectionately and skillfully presented by two fine clowns.