Crying Time: Puddles’ Pity Party – Soho Theatre, London

Emma Connolly

Emma Connolly

Emma lives in England. Ace the dog keeps her feet and heart warm while she writes about music and culture.
Emma Connolly

Latest posts by Emma Connolly (see all)

Clowns have become scarce of late. Associated latterly with an outmoded form of travelling circus or exiled into horror movies, the significance of the traditional art of clowning is, at best, largely overlooked: at worst, forgotten. However, the roots of clowning run deep within the psyches (and frequently the religions) of many world cultures, from Ancient Egypt to modern Native Americans. There is good reason for this: no matter how liberal a society, it has barriers and conventions. The role of a clown is to break the rules, confound expectations, to provoke laughter, unease, pathos, and not a little fear.

There is a whiteface clown with sad eyes and a downturned mouth who travels the world in a solo show of dark cabaret. The Chronopages went to see him on July 21 in the basement of the Soho Theatre, London, UK. We went down a set of dimly-lit stairs, into a narrow hallway where our tickets were taken by Puddles himself. A near 7 foot presence resplendent in black and white motley, with the elegant face of the traditional Auguste clown, the silent Puddles is a far cry from the stereotypical weedy mime artist. He chews gum and wears an expression of general disappointment as he tears the ticket stubs. The audience file past into the theatre and wait.

The stage door opens slowly and Puddles enters carrying a lantern and a suitcase. He slowly circumnavigates the audience inspecting various individuals, who shuffle and smile nervously, uncertain of his intentions. He takes to the stage, ripples of emotion playing across his painted features. Music begins to play; the introduction to the Bee Gee’s “I Started a Joke”. Puddles begins to sing and his voice is indeed golden. Welcome to Puddles’ Pity Party, a strange and precarious show.

Puddles Pity Party

Puddles and audience memberAudience members are brought onstage to be dressed in costume, to play air guitar, to be posed like statues. One brave soul makes his way through a decent rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ while the star of the show relaxes and flips through a magazine. Puddles prowls amongst the seats, flirting, provoking, touching. He challenges the audience continuously, prodding them out of any comfort zone they may inhabit. Some react with delight, others with thinly veiled aggression. The transformation wrought by facepaint works both ways, allowing intimate contact and revelations of character that would be unlikely to happen so casually outside the Party.

Puddles and tequilaDespite sitting quietly at the rear of the theatre, even your Chronopages correspondent found herself presented with a gentlemanly white gloved hand and was led onto the stage and dressed by Puddles in a Tequila bottle costume to provide the visual accompaniment to Los Lobos’ ‘Estoy Sentado Aqui’, standing at his shoulder and then perching upon his knee.

Puddles is silent except when singing, and his sad songs are eclectic, both in choice and presentation. Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, is accompanied by a montage of Kevin Costner photographs and proves unexpectedly poignant before morphing into heavy metal vocals as dry ice swirls around and Puddles stalks the stage menacingly. His version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is vocally stunning and weirdly delightful; as Percy Bysshe Shelly noted, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts”. His covers of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and Lorde’s ‘Royals’ are well known YouTube hits, and prove at least as mesmerising live.


Puddle’s truly astonishing baritone voice stands at the core of the show, elevating spectacle into art, and creating a strangely revelatory meeting point between music and Clowning. As he performs Bowie’s ‘When You Rock and Roll With Me’ it is impossible not to make the connection to the Thin White Duke in his Pierrot costume. When dabbing at his eyes with tissues which are then flung out to the audience, Johnny Ray’s peculiar proto-rock’n’roll comes to mind. The contradictions of the best modern musical artists are similar to the centuries-old role of the Clown; ridiculous, provocative, heartfelt and unsettling. Puddles Pity Party combines these two worlds to brilliant and memorable effect. He finishes by leading the audience in a Karaoke version of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, and it is impossible, by the end of the Pity Party, not to have fallen in love, even just a little, with this sad Clown and his golden voice.

Puddles Falling in Love


Puddles Pity Party:

  • August 7 – 31, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • September 5 – 7, Seattle Bumbershoot
  • October 10, Los Angeles, Festival Supreme