Hiding Behind the Mask: Jesters, Jokers and Clowns (2023), Fringe Online, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Rosemary George
Erol Delos Santos (Communications Consultant) Anthony Grayson (Graphics) Hartley Kemp (Artistic Director) Robert O’Haire (Producer) Lyndon McCray (Editor)
Rosemary George
Running time

This is an unusual event to review on the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s described as ‘A masterclass on the hidden meaning behind characters from ancient Greek theatre, commedia dell’arte, film, television and slapstick.’ It’s delivered in two parts and the speaker, Professor Rosemary George is filmed, for the most part, seated between two pot plants in the style of ‘Between Two Ferns’ by Zach Galifianakis, it’s an unfortunate similarity and it looks almost quaint in this setting.

The Professor’s delivery style is to look into the camera and then regularly break eye contact to peer down at her notes. A teleprompter would have helped stop this and aided engagement with her audience/students. The lecture covers a huge area, encompassing Roman and Greek theatre, European early theatre, Japanese Noh, Commedia dell'arte, Opera, even extending as far as cartoons, Mr Bean and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And in the space of 80 minutes that’s a lot but it does help maintain a good pace and this did keep me engaged all the way through, and I am not the easiest of audiences to achieve that with.

Ms George has a pleasant delivery style but as a prerecorded on line lecture there are some jump cuts and apparent button fumbling by the professor which might have been more artfully dealt with. Throughout the first lecture the role of the mask and the hidden meaning in the role of the joker and the fool is explored and defined. In the second part I found this thread, at least for me faltered, almost vanishing in the latter stages. Clips from films, TV shows and theatre performances are successfully used in the early section to illustrate and explain important points but in the second half the use of these exerts seems to proliferate and sometimes appears unnecessary and arbitrary in the absence of any insight provided.

During the entire lecture many, many sources are referenced and the professor’s range and extent of research is clearly apparent. There is one section in her delivery where a voice is heard to ask the professor a question, it is the only time this happens and it seems both staged and odd when this kind of interaction is absent within the rest of the lecture. 

I enjoyed the event, it’s a densely packed piece of work which successfully steers a course between the jagged rocks of academic dryness and the coral reefs of mundanity. For anyone interested in learning more about this subject it would make a good starting point.

Delivered Online
Available anytime.
Suitability: 8+
Tickets: £ Pay What You Can