Pros: An outstanding venue. Hornsey Town Hall is a gem of Modernist architecture, sadly at risk of becoming a hotel.
Cons: The self-indulgent hosting was not enjoyable.
If you’ve never been to the Hornsey Town Hall you should definitely pay a visit to this gorgeous modernist building, which still preserves most of its original 1930s furniture and decoration. Three floors of offices, a wooden chamber and the large assembly hall were closed to the public after thirty years of use, falling into disrepair, until recently they were rediscovered as a filming location for cinema and TV. In 2013 the building hosted Secret Cinema’s live reconstruction of Miller’s Crossing and, soon after, became an arts centre. Now, the Hall is threatened by the redevelopment plans of an Asian company hoping to transform it into a boutique hotel.
For the first time ever at the Hornsey Town Hall, the London Clown Festival is running a calendar of events spanning over a fortnight, staging some of the emerging and most established names from the British comedy scene. Parody, mime, physical comedy, post-clowning and socially conscious clowning are all part of the offering. The opening night cabaret presented a selection of six performers who will return to present their solo shows during the two-week event.
Hosted by feminist comedian Lucy Hopkins and a friend, the late-starting gala was in many respects underwhelming. The performers had a window of about fifteen minutes each to present their numbers, which were often muddled by technical difficulties and a lack of structure. Some of them, I suppose, struggled to create a suitable excerpt of their full-length show, as it seemed in the case of supply teacher Mr Grebe, whose biology demonstration felt hurried and incomplete. Marny Godden’s time on stage was jeopardised by a mix-up of soundtracks, whereas duo The Establishment resorted to picking on the audience to create some dramatic tension.
Despite the lengthy and anticlimactic sequences of the two hosts – whose presence on stage was limited to improvised grimaces and barely comprehensible mumbling – the second half of the evening was more interesting. Sound comedian and mime Inda Pereda’s impersonation of a Japanese anime was the highlight of the show and convinced me to return and see more of his work. Shesus and The Sisters’ idea of a musical medley fell flat due to a clumsy execution, and the openly blasphemous subject matter might have been considered offensive by some audience members.
As a final act, Henry Maynard’s vivid reproduction of a scene in the tube closed with a positive note an evening that felt self-indulgent and too amateurish for the title it bears. A generous three-star rating is awarded as an act of goodwill for some of the single artists – like Inda Pereda and Henry Maynard – who deserve a wider public. The remaining performers should polish their work to achieve a more universal appeal and Lucy Hopkins might consider revisiting her hosting skills.