Good clowns never go out of fashion, even half-petrified dust-coated ones, and the chalky Belgian duo in Ha Ha Ha need nothing more than an old ball, a few empty boxes and a swinging door frame to win the hearts (and humours) of their audience of over-fours.
Performed by Xavier Bouvier and Benoit Devos, Ha Ha Ha is an hour of artful simplicity. Short scenes focus in on familiar circus feats – tumbles, juggling, slapstick – but each set-piece is made new by being stripped back to basics; a joyful paradox of accessible physical wonder in this over-stimulated, over-simulated age.
The reconfiguration of a cardboard tower blends comedy and acrobatic skill, and the children watching are as invested as they would be at the pantomime, crying out ‘he’s behind you!’ as the tower reaches impossible heights and one clown tries to thwart to the other.
Wearing oversized shoes and baggy flour-sack overalls, Bouvier and Devos’ bodies are sites of comedy too. In their large hands, something as basic as a raised eyebrow or a grimace provokes much hilarity, which is enhanced by their white-face half-masks and jumbo puppy-dogs noses. The duo’s nonsense mumbles, meanwhile, carry a litany of giggle-worthy complaint. They may be speaking a different language – they may not be speaking any real language at all – but there is no misunderstanding the shifting hierarchy of competition and mutual dependency that defines their relationship.
At a little more than 60 minutes, the energy in Ha Ha Ha flags toward the end, and the finale is a muted, if beautiful affair, as a circus tent descends from above spilling light and confetti from the sky. After such a raucous hour, the audience seem somewhat unsatisfied and they invade the stage, greedy for more, something that even the natural improvisers behind Ha Ha Ha seem thoroughly unprepared for.
– Sara Keating