Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 4th August 2017
Being a clown is hard. The best are usually at least 40 years old. Sam Goodburn has only just turned 23, and he is very very good. His first full-length show, Dumbstruck, has been expertly directed by Fraser Hooper, but it’s Sam’s performance skills that keep us laughing with him as he awkwardly attempts to manage the morning after a steamy score with the invisibly snoring Susan.
Sam’s lanky physique and long face emphasise a lovable geek persona, and the glorious development of the show from careful creeping to complete chaos is a joy to watch as it unfolds. If we think the room looks a mess when we arrive, it unravels into a special kind of mayhem as we follow the hapless youth’s attempts to fix mistakes and stay on his snoozing lady’s sweet side. The final scene brings the story to a beautiful and unexpected conclusion after a riot of hilarious ridiculousness that leaves me holding my cheeks from laughing so much.
Sam has won major national awards for unicycling, juggling and contemporary circus, although he doesn’t flaunt those abilities from the offset We are gradually let in on his balance and manipulation skills as they build, through feigned disaster, while his character’s hold on the situation conversely disintegrates over the hour.
When I see the show it is still in preview, and the lights and sound cues do not always come according to plan. Or is that, actually, part of the plan? All the pieces of Sam’s universe conspire against him – the toaster timer plays to its own tune, mobile phones cause havoc hurtling through the air, and the bits of clothing strewn around the chintzy flat fall apart in his cleverly clumsy hands – why should the sound technician be any different? The development of a frustrated relationship between them is part of the fun in a show where the character’s intentions never quite manifest as he’d like.
Dumbstruck gives me a really good time, and the casting of saviour Brian from the audience brings a whole new level to the improvisations and makes me want to return on a daily basis to see events unfold in all their future incarnations, and to get my feel-good fix.