Dr Brown – Because

Posted on May 8, 2011

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An absurd, R-rated, trip through the demented buffoonery of Dr Brown, this is not a show for the prudish or faint-hearted. Sit up the front at your own risk.

Because.

If ever there was a time and place for that internet-favoured phrase “what is this I don’t even” to be uttered in real life, this show is it. It is R-rated mime, kid-friendly clowning and balls-out in-your-face (literally) audience interaction rolled into one absurd whole that possibly contravenes several sexual harassment laws. It’s also much funnier than it has any right being.

Wait. Did I say kid-friendly? Sorry. While there is a kid (of sorts) in the show and while Dr Brown could successfully work the children’s birthday party circuit if he wanted to, Because is most definitely NSFWOK (Not Safe For Work Or Kids or Not Safe For Work OK, take your pick). Just in case you hadn’t picked up on that in the first paragraph.

Dr Brown – the alter ego of London-based American and classically trained bouffon Philip Burgers – has, according to his Facebook bio, “been involved in the trafficking of teenage turtles from southern Thailand for 36 years. He has also managed to found countless charities including The Royal National Institute for Dead People.”

If that doesn’t give you an idea of his silliness, don’t fret. It’s hardly an indication of the experience of sitting through the show. Mostly because it’s words and for the first three quarters or so of Because, there are none. Not from Dr Brown, at any rate.

Check: mime.

I’ve never been a particular fan of mime. Never had anything against it either, but suffice to say I don’t really get Mr Bean – a character often cited as a reference point for Dr Brown. This is misleading. The former is a deliberate ham; the latter much more understated. But that in itself is a misleading claim. There are as many moments here of straight-out over-the-top clownery as there are subtle eyebrow lifts.

Check: clowning.

Don’t come expecting red noses and oversized shoes, however (although he does ride a kid-sized bicycle for about nine seconds). This is clowning in the French tradition of the bouffon as taught by Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier (whose theatre school Burgers attended).

Gaulier – called “the greatest living teacher of clown” by one of the greatest living bouffons, Sacha Baron Cohen – defined the bouffon as an anti-clown, existing somewhere between grotesqueness and charm. Dr Brown has this down pat, along with the bouffon’s traditional gambit of insulting or disgusting his audience, and getting away with it… mostly. He has a tally board side of stage that other reviewers have noted is for walkouts.

There were none this evening. Surprisingly.

Check: audience interaction.

I’m tempted to go see the show a second time to satisfy my cynicism about the guys down the front who bore the brunt of Dr Brown’s audience, um, interaction. After what he did to one in particular (vacuuming his mate’s hair is probably the least of it), my brain could do nothing but silently scream PLANTS! If they weren’t, then boy they’re good sports. (On the other hand, this far along in the show’s run word has got out and those who sit down the front no doubt do so with an element of ‘come at me bro’ bravado.)

And ultimately, that’s what this is: sport. We are his playthings and he is in complete control, even if it seems like utter chaos. As he walks an eggshell line between total stupidity and insane brilliance, it’s almost impossible to tell one from the other, and the audience bounces from baffled to amazed to terrified, with only one question in its collective mind at any point: why? The answer is always because.

First published by The Enthusiast.

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Posted in: Comedy, Live reviews