Edinburgh Fringe Fest - Clown Sex
Enter the twisted, tantalising world of Gary Strange – the creation of writer, actor and composer Natasha Sutton-Williams. Already having been nominated for awards such as Best Performance at the Offies and People’s Choice Award for its run at the Vault Festival in London, and named as a Brilliantly Oddball Show to See this year by Time Out, Clown Sex takes audiences on a rollercoaster ride of physical theatre, comedy and performance art. This play involves bad sex, good sex, happy sex, sad sex and even the eponymous clown sex.
We spoke to Natasha to delve deep into the thought process behind the cheery yet somewhat creepy character Gary and his lust for clowns…
Please tell us more about the star of Clown Sex, Gary Strange
Aww, Gary. He is such a cutey. To me anyway. He is a complete optimist – even though he lives in the sewers due to the cost-of-living crisis, he makes the best of his situation, and in a way prefers it to living above ground as in the sewers he can be free, he can be his true self. He also has access to great transportation links.
I have a real soft spot for Gary, even though some people might find him to be a bit of a wrong’un. It’s true that he has some odd tastes - clown sex being one of them - and he loves to bask in the joy of filth, but what is so great about Gary is that he doesn’t let society’s prejudices get in the way of expressing himself, or his pleasure seeking. He is cheery, sweet and really quite thoughtful, especially when it comes to his romantic partners. He has taken wokeness very seriously.
Should we leave all our inhibitions at the theatre door before we enter the world of Clown Sex? Absolutely. It’s important to come to any theatre show with an open mind, and judge it on its own terms, e.g. what is the play trying to do and does it achieve that goal? Clown Sex is supposed to entertain, provoke and titillate in equal measure. It’s freaky, funny and at times a little disturbing. But the message of the show is to invite people to lean into their secret desires, and seek out new experiences, even if society deems them to be unsavoury. As long as it’s consensual, this play is saying ‘Be free!’ Clown Sex is trying to promote not just a liberation of sexual freedom, but a liberation of thought, particularly when it comes to society’s judgements on individuals. You’ll have to come and experience the show to see if it delivers.
Where did the inspiration for Gary come from?
If you can believe it, around ten years ago I was commissioned by a youth theatre to adapt a show that used the metaphor of clowns for Eastern European trafficked sex workers. It was a rather strange premise, but what sparked my interest was the idea of clown sex itself. Who would want to have sex with a clown? How would you seek it out? What would clown sex look and feel like? I decided I wanted to tell the story of a clown sex ingenue. At that moment, Gary Strange was born.
How easy, or difficult is it to bounce between tragedy and hilarity on stage?
I think to get it ‘right’ is quite difficult. On the surface, Clown Sex sounds like a kooky, crazy show, but a huge amount of time and effort has gone into the complexity of the writing. All good tragedy has baked in laughs. All good comedy has tragic moments. That’s what I’m trying to create with Clown Sex.
Also, a good director helps! They bring out nuances in the text that I as the writer/performer won’t have consciously recognised. Together we can emphasise those through the physicality, vocal intonation and character motivations.
What’s your favourite bit of the show?
The very end, just before the curtain call; I will have taken the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, thoughts, feelings, even physical expulsions! Snot, spit and quim are all welcome. By the end, I’m normally doused in sweat, exhausted but elated. I love going backstage and earwigging as the audience leaves to hear their reactions to the piece.
Clown Sex will be performed at 1.45pm in Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker Two) from 2nd – 27th August (Not 16th, 21st or 28th)