Following appearances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the New Zealand Fringe Festival, Sabrina D’Angelo is literally dancing her way onto the Bondi Feast stage this week with her critically acclaimed showWhy Do I Dream. This genre-defying spectacle not only reinvigorates the art of clowning, but also involves almost every conceivable form of comedy that you can call to mind.
By way of introduction, D’Angelo describes herself as a body-poet. When asked about the origins of the term, she explains, “A reviewer once said that my stuff is Kate Bush meets Mr. Bean, so I was trying to find something that would capture that. It’s also just so cheesy, so I use it kind of half-jokingly, but it started to backfire because I was getting booked for all these serious poetry gigs. I say that it tries to capture a bit of mime, a bit of clowning, a bit of dance, some puppetry and interpretative dance – all of the hottest art forms right now.”
Although Why Do I Dream is a patchwork quilt of comedic endeavours, the inspiration and storyline of the show come from a very literary place.
“I call [the show] a physical comedy that’s all in your mind,” says D’Angelo. “It’s essentially a theatrical adaptation of [Gustave Flaubert’s] Madame Bovary, which has been described as the [most] perfect piece of fiction ever written. So it’s no mean feat to try and tackle this one. But there’s a trend in theatre at the moment about presenting radical, postmodern reinterpretations of great classical texts, so it sits rather playfully in the context of that.
“The difference here, I suppose, is that the person undertaking the task is a clown. The thing about clowns is that they have the best and noblest of intentions, they don’t really have a sense of irony or cynicism, but they’re very stupid. The result is a very silly show about a person trying to tell this really incredible story with some questionable dramatic choices, but a lot of heart and enthusiasm. Audiences can expect songs, dances, puppets, lots of stupid faces and me doing ridiculous things with my body.”
While Why Do I Dream centres on D’Angelo’s skits, it retains a linear storyline. “I try to have the story as a kind of landmark throughout the show,” she says. “Then again, it’s mostly a vehicle for fun, silly stuff. There’s as much adherence to the story as there isn’t. The thing about Madame Bovary is that it was a really seminal piece of realism that came out of the real Romantic style of writing. So I come to that spirit of realism with a spirit of surrealism. One of my goals of creating the show was to experiment with various non-verbal forms of storytelling and comedy and also explore how those can create truly bizarre, unpredictable and magical worlds for the audience to enter into.”
Audiences are always an important consideration in any show, but seem to be particularly so in D’Angelo’s brand of comedy. “I think audiences are becoming more open to different kinds of comedy – physical, visual and non-stand-up kind of stuff. I think they like clowning because it’s so much about the relationship with the audience. Much of it is improvised and there’s a real unpredictability when you see a clown doing a show. I really want [Why Do I Dream] to just explode people’s minds and have them ask, ‘What the hell are we watching? Maybe it doesn’t really matter.’”