No, that’s not a typo. It’s the nonsensical name of Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award Winner Doctor Brown’s new show. Some people call him a “mime”, or a “silent clown”, others a “sexy physical chameleon who I want to play with every day”… there might not be many other people who say that exactly.
Doctor Brown is on stage before he’s on stage. Peeping through the curtains like a child who can’t wait to do the school play, he shuffles ever closer to the front row, still wrapped in the long black drapes. The audience is nervous of being picked on, but he seems just as nervous of us. Then like an egg and spoon race, it’s off to an explosive, childlike and somewhat hazardous start.
Dressed like a mourning gypsy woman from less enlightened times, he mimes a filmic scene of begging, gunfire, bull-fighting (which leads to a bestially intimate scene), birth and abandonment. We understand what’s happening, even if we’re not sure why… until halfway through the show when everything changes.
We’re no longer observing a comedian who can make us laugh with the tiniest of facial twitches, we’re complicit in creating his joyful world. Doctor Brown rides a bicycle, and mimes ringing a bell, honking, gonging and other actions which we’re expected to provide the correct sounds for – and if we don’t, we get such a look of scorn. The earlier scenes come full circle as volunteers are drawn into the show, repeating the cycle of play, and we end up being the ones abandoned with our own imaginary children.
It’s like experiencing the first two years of developmental psychology in one hour. We imitate his expressions, try to understand a way to communicate without words, and take joy in the simplest things, satisfied that we just shared something. Frequent giggling is as much about relief that things went well, or the penny finally dropping, as genuine belly laughs.
And finally, after briefly disappearing off-stage, Doctor Brown reappears for his curtain call and ends the night as every show should, in our opinion: the performer dancing to up-tempo music in his pants. Dench, we’re looking at you.
We can also highly recommend his children’s show Doctor Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and his Singing Tiger which is equally as good, but with less groping.
Doctor Brown: Befrdfgth runs until Saturday 20 April 2013 at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE. Tickets £12.50-£20. Londonist saw the show on a complimentary review ticket.