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Laughing all the way down (so you don’t have to)

After conquering the most discerning of critics at Grahamstown and Edinburgh, Sophie Joans is back in Cape Town with a sneak preview of her new show, AÏo, a “live techno clown experience”, at Toneelhuis.

Just 80 tickets (of which nearly half are already gone, we are warned) will be available for the preview (one night only) of the show that Joans describes as “a smorgasbord of theatre, clowning and modern technology”.

While it combines comedy and burlesque, this show is not just about falling down seductively. Joans also shines a light on that modern malady of social media-magnified loneliness. Freud and Marx would have a field day (as, I expect, we will).

Resonating with a favourite quote of hers: “The clown falls down so that we don’t have to” (Slava Polunin, the Russian clown who created Slava’s Snowshow), Joans says she likes to tell stories where characters (often herself) fall down because “I hope I can bring to the audience the relief of not having to fall down. Or, if they have fallen down (as we all must sometimes), they can laugh about it and feel better”.

After taking two lessons in burlesque, which Joans describes as “the art of seduction”, she found herself unable to resist combining it with clowning.

Joans, ever-self-deprecating, describes AÏo as “a mishmash of all the things I want to explore”, including the loneliness and isolation that many in society feel today, and the role technology plays in that. 

Those of us who have watched Joans’s stellar rise with delight will need to be fast to secure a ticket to see the birth of a new show by this funny, crazy, wonderful new star in the SA comedy firmament, who many of us first encountered at the long-lamented Alexander Bar.

In the absence of Alex, Toneelhuis is filling the gap (we are told). The venue, at 55 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town, has an intimate studio feel that allows theatre fans to get up close and witness new stars being born, as well as see some well-established shows and names. There is no bar, but you do get a glass of something with your ticket.

Joans’s debut solo show, Île (which she wrote and performed under the direction of Rob Van Vuuren) won a Gold Standard Bank Ovation at the National Arts Festival 2022 as well as the prestigious Filipa Bragança Award for Best Female Performer in a solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

After a successful run at the Baxter, this “one-woman volcano of a show” also won Best Script at Bite Size Fest in London, Best Performance in a Solo Show at the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards and a nomination for Best Actress at Woordfees.

Her earlier work includes The Flower Hunters (which she also co-wrote), which won a Standard Bank Ovation Award in 2021, and the puppet show Do You Dream In Colour, Zabalaza Festival’s Most Innovative Play in 2018, as well as her unforgettable Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Maynardville Open Air Theatre.

Whether it is a good laugh you need or a burlesque clown to project your failure onto grab your ticket for 28 November for Sophie Joans’s new show on Quicket

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