11pm Millennium Eve: Centenarian clown, Scaramouche, breaks fifty years silence to give his final performance charting a bizarre odyssey through crumbling empires, comic misadventures and the 20th Century's darkest episodes, revealing the loves, the brutalities, the ecstasies and the tragedies beneath his seven white masks.
An epic, poetic, profoundly moving tale that is all theatre should and can be; pure, simple, a glorious story sumptuously told, powerful yet enchanting. All in all, a sublime, unforgettable experience.
Directed by Olivier Award winner (for Morecambe), Guy Masterson, Scaramouche Jones is an absolute must see.
"Mesmerising" (The Guardian) "Hilarious" (The Times) "Gloriously elegiac, memorable theatre" (Irish Independent) "Simply stunning" (The Metro)
"An epic one man show, a rare occurrence. It stands out as the best of the genre. In short, it's magic from the start with the clown's bows and entrance through to the narration of life's great adventures." (Fringereview.com) "Do not miss this spectacular production!" (GlamAdelaide) "A stunning piece of theatre... hilarious and touching, tragic and genuine." (Adelaide Theatre Guide) "a masterpiece of solo magical realism."
EDINBURGH FRINGE 2014
- BROADWAY BABY - 20/08/14 - SIMPLY PHENOMENAL Actor and writer Justin Butcher's Scaramouche Jones is a feat in storytelling: both performer and tale performed are equally and utterly compelling. At one-hundred years old, Jones tells his audience that this is to be his last night of life and proceeds to recount a century of living so incredible that he keeps his audience in a permanent state of rapture.
The clown's vocabulary is as eclectic and expansive as his experiences, and its diversity a reflection upon them. Jones' grandiloquent manner of speaking, whilst at first slightly jarring in its strangeness, becomes the agent for some of the most poetic storytelling I have ever come across. The images conjured are spectacularly vivid, as are the evocations of various characters Jones meets as he is swept through a tumultuous life beyond his own control. The ease with which Butcher flips between these characters, injecting an incredible energy into every voice, is remarkable. His physicality, which adds a clownish ridiculousness to what is nevertheless wonderfully graceful movement, is exploited in moments of profundity and humour alike. Jones is presented, and presents himself, as the very figure of tragicomedy.
Fluidity of script and character is matched in the use of tech and set. Changes in lighting states often occur so subtly that it is impossible to notice them happening until the narrative takes a sharp turn and one suddenly becomes aware that the room has been slowly filling up with new colour. We are presented with images onstage which are almost as powerful as those Jones' poetic imagery can evoke. For example, a tableau of a drowning man is created with incredible ingenuity through the use of white light and a sandpit.
This epic tale and its epic retelling are simply phenomenal. Its beauty and its tragedy are equally heart-rending; combined, they create a truly outstanding production which is not to be missed. (Megan Dalton - Broadway Baby - 20/08/14)
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE - 15/08/14 - PHYSICAL & BEAUTIFULLY SPOKEN It's funny how some shows seem relevant to recent events even though they were created in a different time, but a couple of days after the death of Robin Williams I watched a clown tell us that this is the last day of his life.
But Justin Butcher's Scaramouche Jones has been around for some years, written for himself to perform, and he is bringing it back to Edinburgh courtesy of Guy Masterson.
We see the end of his traditional clown act in silhouette, to cheering crowds, before he comes backstage to tell us the story of his 100-year life, gradually removing the costume and make-up of his trade. Ironically for a mute clown, his tale is lyrical with almost archaic, poetic language, and the actor-writer appears to relish every word.
Scaramouche was born abnormally pale-skinned in Port of Spain, Trinidad on the last day of the nineteenth century. His mother was a prostitute and his father unknown, but she once told him he was an Englishman, something he carried with him proudly for the rest of his life.
His mother murdered, he was put on a mission boat but was sold to a slaver, and there begins a series of adventures that takes him all over the world, being the subject of lust of an Italian prince, marrying a 12-year-old prostitute to save her from the corrupt police but then beaten up by her family for not consummating the union, digging graves at a Nazi concentration camp and then finally getting to London, in the alleged country of his father's birth.
All of these personal events are set against the major events of the twentieth century, especially the Second World War when he nearly meets Mussolini and ends up on trial at Nuremberg.
Butcher's performance is physical and beautifully spoken, drawing the audience into this personal, sprawling tale. There are a lot of words and so it takes a lot of concentration to follow the whole thingI'm sure I missed bitsbut it is worth the effort. (David Chatterton - British Theatre Guide - 15/08/14)
PUNTERS' REVIEWS FROM EDINBURGH 2014
Tanya Holt 20/08/14
Fantastic. Classy. Stunning. I can't think of any other superlatives to describe this. Please go. Please go. Please?
Marion Duffy 19/08/14
Quite possibly the best piece of theatre I have ever seen! It was mesmerising. I didn't want to miss a single word or movement and was kept enthralled from beginning to end.
Adam Forde 01/08/14
A majestic performance from Justin Butcher. It is a stunning piece of writing that is sometimes funny, sometimes profoundly moving but always, always engaging. A complete joy and something of a privilege to see. I'm only sad that, on August 1st, I already know I will not see anything better this Fringe.
ADELADIE FRINGE 2010
Tragic, funny and superbly delivered.
THE bastard son of a Trinidadian whore, sold into servitude at a hefty price because of his beautiful white skin, Scaramouche Jones was always destined to have an interesting life.
What follows is a rollicking yarn played out across the West Indies, Europe and Africa, as Scaramouche, fated to end up the sad clown, is thrust hither and thither into circumstances beyond his control and ken, in the earlier half of the Twentieth century. Funny, compelling and ultimately tragic, the story is well crafted, but it is Justin Butcher's execution which makes this a must see. The Oxford-trained thespian is superb in his delivery: engaging, animated, and endearing. (Cameron England - Adelaide Advertiser 22/01/10)
An engaging and interesting piece of theatre... a very personal piece of work Scaramouche Jones is the latest Fringe visitation from Guy Masterson's Centre for International Theatre. This time Masterson directs, rather than stars in, this interesting reprise of a one-man production which debuted in Dublin in 2001 before going on to break all box office records for new writing in the history of the Bristol Old Vic.
That production starred Pete Postlethwaite and this, interestingly, stars the writer of the piece himself, Justin Butcher.
Butcher certainly has the voice and presence to carry the show. It is December 31, 1999, and the 100-year-old Jones has just performed his swansong as clown Scaramouche. He takes us back to his birth on the same day in 1899, the son of a Trinidad whore and a teaspoonful of anonymous English semen. He is pale of face and loved by his whore mother, but tragedy causes him to be sold as a slave to an Italian/English/Somali snake charmer. After a life of misadventure, he comes a kind of ironic full circle to England after being convinced by a Welsh passport officer that Jones is a true English name.
This script is brilliantly written by Butcher and the show can be experienced with the eyes closed; poetry drips from every beautifully turned line. And wry observations tumble out on 20th-century figures and the events that made them famous.
The show is truncated somewhat after 1951 when Scaramouche became Jones and his life as clown began. To see some mime and pathos would have enhanced the impact of the show - it almost feels as if something has been trimmed to create this 85-minute Fringe-length performance. And there could have been more of the 100-year-old in the performance of the opening scenes, which would have enhanced the gradual and ironic transformation to youth as we move through the century.
But Butcher used space well and worked very hard, in a theatre which lacks intimacy, to create an engaging and interesting piece of theatre out of his clever and very personal piece of work. (Robert Horne - Adelaide Independent Weekly 22/02/10)
Scaramouche Jones, written and performed by Justin Butcher and directed by Guy Masterson is in its 9th year. However, it is only since 2008 that this production has been performed by the author of the piece, previously performed by Pete Postlethwaite and directed by Rupert Goold. It is this licence to change direction, embellish, cut or run away on a tangent that gives this performance a wonderfully fresh delivery. Confirmed by a couple behind me who, back for more, were delighting in the subtle differences to a previous experience of Butcher's Scaramouche.
The play hurls the audience through a series of outlandish adventures across the globe as Scaramouche Jones breaks his silence to tell his last tale. It is the story of his life, the story of the seven white masks that have made the clown Scaramouche Jones. Each white mask upon his already pale face is another layer of sour experience which swathes the psyche of the hero. His accounts slither delectably off the tongue in long serpentine streams, which form a poignant contrast to his mimed finale. Here, in the language of the English gentleman he wants to be, can be glimpsed the original Scaramouche of Commedia dell-Arte that is his namesake.
With reliance upon so few props Butcher can create the play in the minds of the audience drawing upon infinite variables to create something entirely unique each time. The lighting and the sound are impeccably timed and give just enough to feed the imagination. When I think back to it I recall sights, smells and characters which were never really there, just in the wonderfully vivid scene that was painted in my mind. For example a simple horn is transfigured from a machine gun to a new-born baby in rapid and apparently logical succession. Charmed as I was by the piece, I believed myself to see the look of bemusement in a white glove.....
As the story progresses Scaramouche sheds his well-worn clown suit and the seven masks to become his naked self, to face his end and his beginning. This is a beautiful account of coming to terms with a life lived. The healing salve that is Scaramouche Jones somehow finds and soothes our inner ill-fated clowns with a perfect balance of dark humour and honestly felt sadness. We are truly fortunate to have this production as a feature of the Adelaide Fringe 2010. (Claire Gilham - Buzzcuts Adelaide - 23/02/10)
A stunning piece of theatre... hilarious and touching, tragic and genuine.
It's December 31, 1999, and white-faced clown, Scaramouche Jones, is about to turn 100. In his near-century of life, he's travelled most of the world and seen more than his fair share of heartbreak.
Justin Butcher, performing from his own script and directed by Guy Masterson, is outstanding in this non-stop, one-hour-and-twenty-minute epic bildunsgroman tale that takes the audience on journey from the West Indies through Africa, the Middle East, Venice, Poland and - harrowingly - a World War 2 concentration camp.
The script - drawing on sources as wide-ranging as Greek mythology, opera, the Bible and Gilbert & Sullivan - is a masterpiece of wordplay on its own, captivating and evocative and a delight for the ears. When combined with Butcher's electric stage presence and physicality, mastery of accents and grasp of timing, both comic and tragic, it becomes an enthralling and moving piece of theatre.
The set is simple but includes useful props; perfectly-timed sound effects, music and clever lighting add to the atmosphere and mood. Scaramouche Jones is, simply put, a stunning piece of theatre - hilarious and touching, tragic and genuine. (Jamie Wright - Adelaide Theatre Guide - 20/02/10)
Writer and actor, Justin Butcher, has also benefited from the guiding hand of director Guy Masterson, together presenting us with a totally captivating performance as a 100 year old clown, hanging up his red nose and oversized shoes for the final time as he retires on the eve of the new millennium, recounts his life story, and waits for death.
Butcher wrote the play a decade ago but, instead of performing it himself, he allowed Peter Postlethwaite to premiere the work, to enormous success. Butcher has, now, found the chance to perform his own work, and that is our good fortune, as we witness this terrific actor bury himself in the character of the silent, white-faced clown with a fantastic history to divulge.
Born of a Trinidadian gypsy whore, Scaramouche had an unusually pale face, his mother informing him that his father was an Englishman. This early childhood is the first of the seven phases of his life or, as he sees them, his seven white masks. The first five decades of his life take us through Africa, as an assistant to a snake charmer, Egypt, Europe and to the Nazi concentration camps, where he was put to work digging graves. As the children passed him on the way to their deaths, he would mime a grotesquely funny scene to them, depicting what was to come, lifting them to laughter and easing their fears. Finally, he is allowed to live in England and, as he must have a surname to enter the country, adopts the surname of the immigration official, Jones.
This is a story that is bleak, powerful, sometimes darkly comic and unbelievably real in the hands of this masterful actor. Scaramouche is a survivor, resilient and doggedly persistent in his belief in being an Englishman by right of his birth. Butcher shows us every pain, every misfortune that Scaramouche has suffered in an astoundingly poignant performance, rich in poetic language, stark in its subject matter and brilliantly executed. His use of his voice, facial expressions and body language are impeccable. This is a production in which even the most critical, the most negative and the most discerning will find nothing to complain about. Even the set, lighting and costume are exactly right.
It is rare to see something of this remarkably high standard and you owe it to yourself to indulge in an evening in the company of genius, while you can.
A CD recording of this work is available in the foyer after the show and there is now doubt that these will sell out, unless they brought a container load with them, so make sure that you get yours on the way out. You will want to relive this performance again and again.
Do not miss this production! (Barry Lenny - Glamadelaide.com 22/02/10)
snowwhite wrote: What a wonderful feast for your eyes, ears and imagination. Rare are moments of this kind, where mastery of rhythm, timing, language and visual perfection combined capture the audience's attention a 100 percent. Incredible events came to life, of the saddest nature and absurdest comedy. Seven masks were revealed hidding the grief and loss of a life time. So many strands make you think about this piece of art for a long time.
A gem of acting and writing, just see for yourself!
jimbo wrote: brilliant theatre. This is another gen from the fantastic portfolio of performances brought to Adelaide by C.I.T. Let's hope they make it back to next Festival with more delights.
Gloria wrote: The must see of F10. You will find it hard to fault it. Sublime.
CaptainCat wrote: Saw it again. Deserves 6 Flags, IF i could give them.
angela wrote: The best thing we saw this year, inside or outside the Festival. A tour de force performed magisterially by the author, JUstin Butcher. This terrifying tour of the 20thC is, if anything, more relevant now than at milennium's end. Great stagecraft here as well (particularly loved the table as camel) and a dramatic soundscape as Well. Six flags if they were available for Scaramouche, CIT and Guy Masterson. Please come back next year with the quality shows.
abmcs wrote: Justin Butcher's amazing talent shines through every facet of this production. With a show that speaks directly to your heart, this is a show not to be missed this Fringe. It's raw talent and ingenious writing at its best! This is what the Adelaide Fringe is all about.
ark wrote: AMAZING a beautifully crafted theatrical experience. A wonderful story expertly scripted and superbly performed! An absolute must see.
F10NATIC wrote: An exquisite master-class performance beyond superlatives. A transfixing carriage into other worlds in bygone times unfolding an extraordinary life story, realised with flawless poetic period language and characterisations throughout that in all equates to story-telling beyond supreme.
Only one other F10 show has given me spine chills during it. This gave me those while I stood at the end with the rest of the audience and felt the room's equally awed admiration and respect in mutual ovation.
lillen wrote: This is classic theatre. If you are passionate about this artform and its origins you need to see this show. The performance was very engaging, the words are delicious and i liked the use of 7 different white faces as symbols punctuating his life. Very interesting use of whiteness as the 'other'.
jamie_h wrote: PLEASE do not miss this! Justin Butcher is an absolute gem - he is extremely successful in writing AND performing this piece, about a clown named Scaramouche Jones reflecting on his 100 years of life (or his 7 stages/ 'faces' that he has worn). Clever, brilliant, touching, funny, emotional... I can go on and on. An absolute must see!
Day_Tripper wrote: There isn't really a lot to Scaramouche Jones. The story is very involved and intricate, and while there's no doubt it's an interesting story, beyond that there's not much else. However... it's the performance you should go and see. Justin's physical and vocal control are outstanding. He was perhaps a little too busy for my liking at the start, but that niggle soon passed. You may not remember much of Scaramouche's life afterwards, but the Justin's performance should stay with you. Masterful.Mona_Lisa wrote: An extremely talented writer and performer gives his all to portray the remarkable life story of the clown Scaramouche Jones. The energy ripples off the stage and keeps you transfixed until the last moment comes. I wanted the story to go on forever but alas the end comes to all of us eventually. If you only see one show at the fringe this year this is the one.......
Francene wrote: The most wonderful show I have seen since Guy Masterson's Under Milk Wood. Justin Butcher had the audience spell bound. His CD was a revisit of the most joyous kind - hearing again the story of Scaramouche Jones using such beautiful language. What a star - and cute, too, in the vein of Mick Jagger - with a mouth, voice and body to match.
CHARLIES_ANGEL wrote: Guy Masterson has the Midas touch. Justin Butcher's genius captures the comedy, tragedy and complexities of human existence into a one hour performance, something that took the great bard over 37 plays to achieve and it is simply mind blowing. But to steal the great words of the Bard; All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven FACES" He is simply Scaramouche Jones.
CatPil wrote: I was entirely carried away by Scaramouche Jones back at the beginning of the 20th century. It was that well interpreted that i could say myself I spent the night in company with the real son of a gypsy born in 1900. And then I learned that Mr. Butcher is the Englishman father of Scaramouche, his creator. Extraordinaire plume, mon ami!
edam_ wrote: absoloutely fantastic every go and see it before it ends
Glen_Christie wrote: When it comes to one-man shows, Guy Masterson is legendary. With Justin Butcher's 'Scaramouche Jones' he comes up trumps again. This piece is funny, thought-provoking, captivating and mesmerising. Scaramouche Jones takes us through his life - from birth to impending death, 100 years in 75 minutes - on a minimalist set, using voice and body to transport across time and the 7 seas. Butcher's performance, under Masterson's direction, is worthy of sell-out houses. A must see!
JohnH wrote: One of the highlights of the Fringe. A memorable script and performance both by a very talented Justin Butcher. I was totally mesmerised as Scaramouche Jones revealed his white masks and took me on a journey through the twentieth century.
Anne wrote: Enchanting! This is theatre at its very best.
DanSA wrote: I was completely seduced. The actor is such a charismatic performer and the writing is something else. Epic.
Janet wrote: GREAT PLAY - GO AND SEE IT
James wrote: Brilliant! We are incredibly lucky to have this play, these unbelievably talented people perform here. Justin Butcher's performance is so masterful one cannot help but be awed. I shall see this play more than once.
kenny wrote: Simply brilliant show - the script is intelligent and Justin Butcher breathes life into the character with an agile, energetic and incredibly engaging performance. I saw the show twice and enjoyed it even more the second time. The use of sound and music is terrific. This is the best piece of Fringe theatre I have seen. Don't miss it.
Cat_Woman wrote: Absolutely amazing!! Brilliantly written and performed by Justin Butcher who kept me mesmerized and deeply moved during the whole performance. As a vistor from the United States I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the Fringe. Would give it a 6 if I could!
Innkeeper wrote: This is magical theatre performed by a master storyteller.
Madame_P wrote: Saw this again last night. This is perfect theatre. I have never seen anything like it, and it is my pick for the best show in the fringe. Standing ovation from the audience... Well Done Justin Butcher!
fringeaddict wrote: Justin Butcher is mesmerising in this incredible piece of theatre. Made me smile, made me cry. Just exquisite.
crazy_white_ma wrote: A tOur de force of theatre- powerful and moving
tankililla_ wrote: this show is simply fantastic and should be number one the best show i have ever seen JB come back and do it next year
KateFraser wrote: Beautifully written, masterfully directed, and exquisitely performed. I have never been so moved by a piece of theatre. If you see nothing else this Fringe, see Scaramouche Jones.
heller wrote: ONE WORD... FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!
dlol wrote: An amazing performance by an excellent actor. The show is also fabulous. The writing is first class and the actor brings the words to life. It's moving and interesting and I felt that it was something of a privilege to be there.
Kay_Today wrote: This is a powerful work, performed flawlessly by the author Justin Butcher, and directed by the wonderfully talented Guy Masterson. If you like good theatre, don't miss it.
Kooky wrote: wonderful show - an amazing tale by an excellent actor! The story of each of his masks is enthralling! Excellent job Justin and Guy Masterson's Centre just keeps bringing these great actors to the stage!
fringeonmyface wrote: Simply Amazing! Butcher is mesmerising. A must see!
tankililla_ wrote: an amazing example of what great theatre is like Scaramouche is the century in human form each white mask is another story waiting to be told. Go on, plunge in and enjoy the best show in the fringe!!!!!
Fringalicious wrote: Brilliant acting, brilliant script. I was mesmerised. Easily the best show I've seen at the Fringe. I will go see anything JB does in the future. Please come back to the next Adelaide Fringe! Congratulations.
hebejez wrote: A genuine 5 star show. This is a superb opportunity to see a high quality theatre production in an intimate venue. Justin Butcher is riveting in this role and never loses his audience as the story unfolds. Get a ticket..... QUICK!!!
ontheborder wrote: Congratulations, Justin, on writing and performing your rivetting and wonderful play about the unmaking of the British Empire and the making of personal myth! You were incredibly generous in your performance as well as in meeting the audience after the show! Every Drama student should see this- Justin is a master of his craft! DO come back in 2011!
Vinylcutter wrote: This is unbelievably good. The acting is sublime and the way the clown's story is told is riveting stuff. I wonder why this isn't a mainstream Festival production because it is just pure quality. Those in the audience on the night I went were cheering and clapping. It deserves full houses. Do not miss it!
Madame_P wrote: I'll keep it simple - BOOK YOUR TICKETS TO THIS SHOW NOW BEFORE IT SELLS OUT! Such an amazing performance and an EPIC story. Tell your friends, because it is the BEST SHOW I have seen in years.
vollie-jen wrote: SCARAMOUCHE JONES is THE BEST THEATRE piece I have seen for years. Perfectly portrayed and acted, exceptionally clear diction, superb sound effects and lighting- The professional production will have you spellbound for the entire 80 min graphic telling of this fascinating clown's life. Don't miss it!
CaptainCat wrote: This has got to be the hit of the Fringe! A beautiful set in a lovely theatre. A glorious soundtrack and a perfect epic story brilliantly told by a master storyteller. Justin Butcher grips you from the off and whips you on a rollercoaster ride of his Clown's 100 year old life. There is not a wasted moment here. The story is huge to tell yet, you relive every moment with him from Trinidad to North Africa to Italy, to Poland, the Balkans and finally to London... You are there. STUPENDOUS STUFF!
Fringer wrote: This is superb theatre...insightful themes...clever dialogue...great script...and first rate performance from Justin, a consummate performer who is also a director of television and theatre. Scaramouche Jones reveals himself as he removes his 7 masks, and he also reveals the clown and fool in all of us. Go and see this.. you will be moved and riveted to your seat for 80 minutes...oh.. and did I mention Justin wrote the play as well! Anything this guy can't do?
Mia wrote: One of the most harrowing visuals is that of the sad clown, which conjures up the deep despair so often present under the happy masks that we wear. Scaramouche takes us through the journey of his amazing life, to show us how he came to be where he is today and the masks that he has worn along the way. Exemplary writing was emphasised by the quality and dexterity of the performance. With each layer that is stripped back, expect to be drawn further into the enchantment of this show.
EDINBURGH FRINGE 2008
Justin Butcher gives what is almost certain to be the finest performance on the Fringe this year as his own creation, a centenarian clown. He is helped by playing in a more compact space than Pete Postlethwate used in London some years ago for the same role.
Scaramouche Jones is both the inheritor of the Commedia dell'Arte mantle of his namesake and an unofficial chronicler of the first half of the Twentieth Century, from a proud, English perspective.
Starting with his character's birth in Trinidad as the century dawned, Butcher is magical, revealing the seven white masks that together symbolise this sensitive man's colourful life.
The highlights include growing up with a gypsy prostitute mother, apprenticeship to an educated, Anglophile snake charmer from Somalia and, movingly, a job in a concentration camp which leads to an appearance at the Nuremburg trials.
Scaramouche Jones is a masterpiece of solo Magic Realism, impeccably written, perfectly performed and well directed by Guy Masterson. It should be seen here, if possible, and is bound to tour. Philip Fisher (British Theatre Guide)
It is a rare opportunity to watch a writer act out his own play when the creation and implementation are equally brilliant. Justin Butcher 's play had its world premiere in Dublin seven years ago when Pete Postlethwaite played Scaramouche. Apparently, the play still is touring around the world, having been translated into five languages. This is the play's debut in Edinburgh.
This is the first collaboration between Butcher and Masterson, although they tried twice unsuccessfully to bring another Butcher play to the fringe. Playwright/actor and director were able to start anew, making this production a fresh and wondrous experience. It is nothing short of enchanting. This staging is riveting, an odessy of human adventure across half the world.
Butcher's performance is spellbinding. He thrusts around the stage in dramatic fashion without a wasted motion. With wonderful make-up and costume, Butcher's character often seems larger than life.
The set is captivating and Butcher uses it to full effect. It is not surprising that the production was directed by Guy Masterson, because quality shines throughout.
Rarely have production values ever been so high in a one man show. The audience was rapturous, not wanting the performance to end. This show is the best one hander seen by this reviewer over the last 21 years, demonstrating what the fringe is all about when at its best.
It is an epic one man show, a rare occurrence having one actor travel such imaginary distances. As a one hander, it stands out as the best of the genre, a testament to what can be accomplished by one person under able direction. In short, it's magic from the start with the clown's bows and entrance through to the narration of life's great adventures.
Scaramouche Jones may be an early show, but it's not to be missed. In fact, it is a perfect way to start a festival day. Kerry 4 (fringrereview.com 07/08/08)
Not so much the biography of a 100 year old clown, more an alternative telling of the more disturbing side of the 20th Century, this production of 'Scaramouche Jones' is practically flawless. Justin Butcher's performance is as in-depth and considered as you would hope for from the man who wrote the play; his physicality in his clowning and embodiment of different characters as he dives around the stage is both energetic and precise, knowing and touching. As Scaramouche slowly strips out of his clown costume the audience learns through a beautifully worded and layered script of the tragedy, the hardships and suffering that go into not just the clown figure but every human, and the masks worn to cover the scars. Richard Dennis (Three Weeks 15/08/08)
A clown, battered and bruised across the whole of the twentieth century, finally breaks his silence
Midnight on the last day of the year nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, and Scaramouche Jones is waiting to die. Breaking a fifty-year silence, his swansong is an account of his life, which spans the entirety of the previous century. Perhaps the beauty of this play for a largely British audience lies in its insistence on the enduring quality of the British Empire and the comforting awareness of a certain stability that goes along with it.
In a maelstrom of misfortune and suffering, the most important thing to the young Scaramouche is that his father is an Englishman. Here performed by the playwright himself, Scaramouche Jones is a perfect boys' own vagabond story of rags-to-riches, or at least rags-to-a greater understanding of the world. As Scaramouche is battered, blown and knocked about at the hands of fate between The West Indies, Africa and Europe his experiences and ordeals crystallise into the form of white masks, marking him forever.
Butcher's performance is well-measured and physically entertaining, evoking far-off bazaars and each colourful character with skill. The clown-figure has always been, as Scaramouche notes, a tragic as well as a comic performer, hovering between worlds, at once observing and at the centre of the action. As Scaramouche is cast away from home, beaten by gypsies and sold into slavery, so he witnesses the great events of the world as the terrible twentieth century unfolds. This play has not lost its huge variety of charms, and its Edinburgh début is long overdue. Lucy Jackson (FEST 3/08/08)
The tale of Scaramouche Jones, a clown on the cusp of death, sees an aging performer tell of the adventures, trials and tribulations of his life. Set on the eve of the millennium, Scaramouche recounts his last 99 years, taking us across continents and oceans and introducing us to Arab traders, African snake charmers and Italian princes. Justin Butcher's performance is energetic and animated, and his crazed eyes hold your attention well. The writing (also by Butcher) is well crafted, perhaps overly so, and the rambling plot is delightfully implausible. Indeed so unbelievable is the tale that one wonders if Scaramouche's monologue is in fact one last performance; a final conjuring trick of fantasy, rather than the unmasking of the truth.
Yet Scaramouche's tale has a darker side, his makeup covering a life of tragedy and pain. From the outset we learn of his gypsy mother, a "bottomless receptacle for the semen of many nations" selling herself to sailors in Trinidad. Buffeted by fate, like some modern day Odysseys or Candide, Scaramouche is exposed to many of the horrors of the twentieth century; decaying Empires, slavery and genocide all making appearances. It is only his pale clown-like skin which alleviates some of his misfortune. Yet these events serve merely as misfortunes to the clown, and the play could have just as easily been set in the nineteenth century. While references to symbols of empire such as Elgar, Laurence of Arabia and Disraeli abound there is no serious attempt to comment on or satirize the many events Scarmouche's life touches. This would have added an edge to an otherwise sharp and well written play. Neil Simpson (Edinburgh Festivals Magazine 13/08/08)
Scaramouche Jones is a superbly inventive monologue tracing the history of the 20th century from the viewpoint of a wandering circus clown born of a 'gypsy whore in Trinidad in 1899'. Jones is played with electrifying energy by the show's author, Justin Butcher. Lloyd Evans - The Spectator - 20/08/08
Completely mesmerizing - (03/08/08) - reviewer: Lindsey Goodman, United States
Justin Butcher, writer and actor, has just been added to my pantheon of performer personal heros (with percussionist Steve Schick and puppeteer Ronnie Burkett). This amazing one-man show had more words than the entire Ring Cycle, and yet the beautifully-crafted nature of each sentence and the absolute cellular-level ownership of the material on behalf of the actor made the play one of the most enthralling theatrical experiences of my life. Detailing the *incredibly* hard life story of the titled clown, its my favorite kind of narrative art: one which shows the goodness of humanity in the most unlikely of circumstances. I will most certainly see this show again, and I would pay 40 quid just to hear Justin read the phone book to me. Five undisputable stars.
Brilliant Performance - (06/08/08) - reviewer: Jules, Edinburgh
The best piece of theatre I have seen so far in this year's Fringe. A brilliant performance. Totally enthralling. Definitely a show that I have been recommending to everyone. Try not to miss it.
Powerful and moving - (09/08/08) - reviewer: Geoff Brown, UK
Brilliant from beginning to end. Powerful performance of a moving story with excellent acting and script.
Scaramouche Jones - (11/08/08) - reviewer: EdinburghStraightFringeCut, UK and Proud of it
I've seen several shows whilst in Edinburgh that reveal a life storyn (real or imagined) of some kind or another. However within seconds of the actor appearing on stage I was hooked. I felt an affinity to Scaramouche Jones immediatley. The way life beats you to a pulp and sends you on your way in no particular direction was central to this story as the hero of the piece stumbles his way through europe from egypt to the concentration camps of poland to wind up a clown is both moving and funny. I love listening to stories like this and the actors ability to tell it is just fantastic. Both energetic, and fascinating. I look foward to next years offerings.
Red Nose Day - (14/08/08) - reviewer: Basil, Sorrel, Parsley, UK
Superb! If you don't see anything else at this year's Fringe, see this one man show. This performance deserves a better venue though, as periodically a dance troupe took to the floor above and was a distraction from the magnificent dialogue.
Diverse and Entertaining - (15/08/08) - reviewer: Sean Davis, USA
On his hundredth birthday an unnaturally white faced man relates his well travelled life, from son of a Dominican Republic whore to an African snake charmer's assistant to Nazi concentration camp grave digger/clown. I marvel at how the writer successfully links the wildly diverse and entertaining chapters of his life. I must admit that when he had only told of his first fifty years, I was afraid that tales of the next fifty would make the play interminable, but, thankfully, he skips them. This ranks 16th of the 83 shows I have seen so far!
JUSTIN BUTCHER - writer & performer
Justin read Classics Greats at Oxford, trained subsequently at Drama Studio London, and has worked all over the world as director, writer, actor and musician in a vast range of roles and productions in theatre, television, radio and film.
His epic play Scaramouche Jones, starring the late Pete Postlethwaite, has been touring the globe since its premiere at the Dublin Theatre Festival 2001, has won and been nominated for several awards, translated and produced in five languages. In 2003 his anti-war satire The Madness Of George Dubya, hailed by The Guardian as the catalyst for the re-politicisation of British theatre, received unprecedented global media coverage, played to packed houses for five months in London's West End, and along with its sequel A Weapons Inspector Calls, earned Justin the Fringe Report Best Political Dramatist Award. The third in the trilogy, Guantanamo Baywatch, was produced in the West End in the run-up to the November '04 US Presidential election.
His comic update of the Phaedra/Hippolytus legend, Breaking Strain, was a major hit at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe, hailed by The Scotsman it as a 'modern classic'. Other recent directing credits include: The Red Room (Union Theatre, London); The Winter's Tale (Creation Theatre, Oxford); the Trade Justice Vigil, a huge multi-media event at Westminster Abbey for the 2005 Make Poverty History campaign, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Pete Postlethwaite, Damian Lewis, Ronan Keating, Beverley Knight and Jools Holland; His own re-working of the Mystery Plays, The Millennium Man (Theatre Royal, Bath & UK tour) and his own commedia-style passion play, King Of Fools (Westminster Abbey and five UK tours); Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy (Colorado Festival of World Theatre, USA); Child Of Biafra (Contact Theatre, Manchester). He has also written five plays for BBC Radio 4: Chukwudebelu - Preserved Of God; The Man On The Pillar; The Seven White Masks Of Scaramouche Jones (starring Warren Mitchell), The Patience Of Mr Job and Escape From Gaza.
In August '08, he gave a highly-acclaimed run of Scaramouche Jones, directed and produced by Guy Masterson/Theatre Tours International, at the Assembly Rooms at the Edinburgh Fringe. This production toured the UK throughout 2009 and played the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Australia, 2010 and 2012, nominated for the Bank SA People's Choice Award.
His play, Go To Gaza, Drink The Sea, co-written and directed with Ahmed Masoud in response to the invasion of Gaza in January 2009, generated critical acclaim and controversy and transferred to the Assembly Rooms at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe. His adaptation of Stanislav Stratiev's Cold War satire The Roman Bath (Arcola Theatre, Apr-May '10) was praised by Michael Billington in The Guardian and Michael Coveney in The Independent for introducing UK audiences to the work of a major Eastern European satirical writer. In Dec '09 - Jan '10, he performed in and directed the music for Phil Porter's Cinderella at the Unicorn Theatre for Children. His first book, Jimmy - A Legacy Of Peace, the biography of Jimmy Mizen, published in May 2013 was described by The Guardian's Erwin James as 'One of the most moving books I have ever read.' His latest stage plays are Childhood In Berlin, a dramatisation of German-Jewish memoirs of pre-war Berlin, and The Last Great Quest, commissioned by the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, to mark the centenary of Captain Scott's Antarctic Expedition, scheduled to premiere in 2015, followed by UK and international touring.
Most recently, he has produced and curated the hugely successful Bethlehem Unwrapped festival at St James's Church, Piccadilly, over Christmas 2013, working with Nigel Kennedy, the Tallis Scholars, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel, and a glittering programme of Palestinian, Israeli and British artists in a contemporary celebration of the life and culture of Bethlehem, to festival audiences of nearly 30,000 people and global coverage on television, radio, internet and social media.
GUY MASTERSON - Director (click for additional biographical material)
After obtaining a Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry from Cardiff University in 1982, Guy studied drama at UCLA's School of Drama and started as an actor in 1985 in Hollywood. He returned to the UK in 1989 to study further at LAMDA.
Following a conventional start in plays, film and television, Guy began solo performing in 1991 with The Boy's Own Story and thence Under Milk Wood in 1994 and Animal Farm in 1995. He first produced/directed in 1993 with Playing Burton and participated at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in 1994. The following 25 seasons saw his association with many of Edinburgh's most celebrated hits, and his company has become the Fringe's most awarded independent theatre producer - garnering 8 Scotsman Fringe Firsts, 3 Herald Angels, 25 Stage Award nominations (including 4 wins) together with numerous lesser awards. Guy was the force behind Edinburgh's 3 biggest grossing dramatic hits 12 Angry Men, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (2004) and The Odd Couple (2005). His 2009 production of Morecambe transferred to London's West End and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment - plus another nomination for the actor playing Eric). At Edinburgh 2014, his epic 30 actor production of Animal Farm with Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia, won the Stage Award for Best Ensemble.
As a performer, he was nominated for The Stage Award for Best Actor for A Soldier's Song (1998). He won The Stage Best Actor in 2001 for Fern Hill & Other Dylan Thomas. He was nominated for Best Solo Performance for Under Milk Wood in 2003 and again for Shylock in 2011. In 2003, he also received Edinburgh's most prestigious accolade, The Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe Award. At Edinburgh 2016 he created his first overtly stand-up comic piece, Barking Mad! which then toured to Perth and Adelaide. At Edinburgh 2017, he directed Hollywood star, Michael Brandon in his debut stand-up piece Off Ramps. At Edinburgh 2018, along with performing A Christmas Carol, he co-wrote, produced and directedThe Marilyn Conspiracy. At Edinburgh 2019, he directed Owen O'Neill's brilliant black comedy, Shaving The Dead along with the smash hit of the Fringe The Shark Is Broken - the back story of the making of Jaws, starring Ian Shaw, Rober Shaw's son. This was due to transfer to London's West End in May 2020, however, due to Covid-19, it has been postponed to 2021.
His theatrical commitments have largely kept him out of mainstream film and television, however, he has made the obligatory appearance on Casualty (Christmas Special 2004) and has been the Franziskaner Monk - the main character of the premium German beer - since 2007. He also writes plays, screenplays and poetry.
His passion is to bring great ideas to life and new talent to the stage.
He is married to Brigitta and father to Indigo and Tallulah...
From the Author: I wrote Scaramouche Jones in the final months of 1999, while I was away in Holland directing a TV series, primarily as an amusement for myself in the evenings. Since the only goal was to write something 100% attuned to my own tastes (and if anyone else liked it, so much the better), I cheerfully chucked all my favourite ingredients into the pot: a lifelong fascination with clowns, the fate of the lost race known as the English, stranded in the backwash of the colonial era, having scattered their irresistible absurdities across much of the globe, the Boys' Own yarn-spinning of Conan Doyle, Haggard, Buchan and Kipling, the weird displacements and upheavals of populations and cultures through 20th century wars and disasters - perhaps threaded together by a vague thought of adding my own ten penn'th to all the millennial pomp and circumstance crowding the airwaves at the time of writing. Through pillaging the exploits of my own patchwork family, whose web of intersections meanders (like Scaramouche) across Trinidad, West Africa, Italy, Poland and even the Nuremberg Trials (the Hon Justice Percy Rawlins was my great-uncle), with snakes, concentration camps and grave-faced actors thrown in, Scaramouche Jones also became an experiment in personal myth-making, and so the tale is dedicated with great affection and gratitude to my family in memory of their adventures throughout the craziest, bloodiest and yet most bountiful century in human history. (Justin Butcher)
From the Director: When Justin came to me in 2008 with the idea of remounting Scaramouche Jones, he already knew the words (a gift to any director!) and with the original producers gifting us the set & props from Pete Postlethwaite's original world renowned production along with the original sound design, making the show happen was a relative dream come true! Justin, had written it for himself a decade earlier but, as sometimes happens, great scripts find great actors, and Justin gave his baby up for adoption - as t'were! In 2008, having seen countless performances with Postlethwaite, Justin was armed with swathes of ideas and, in the rehearsal room, Justin proved to be a dream. His abundant physical abilities plus his intimate knowledge of both text and intention permitted him to make creative decisions 'on the fly', indulging my directorial whim, and being free to physicalise or mime or even dance a moment if that whim called for it! But even more wonderful (and rare) was our freedom to alter the text as needed with immediate and rarely hard-fought playwright approval! Both Justin and I took advantage of this many times! With our hats tipped respectfully in the direction of Rupert Goold (the play's original director), Mr Postlethwaite and Adam Cork (the sound designer) our new production became a fresh and wondrous interpretation of this extraordinary odyssey which, we hope, enchants and transports... just as good theatre should. (Guy Masterson)
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SCARAMOUCHE JONES runs 95 minutes and has NO INTERVAL
Minimum playing area is 7 meters wide by 5 meters deep. This is compact. Larger is preferable. Suitable for auditoria ranging from the intimate (100 seats) to the large (1500 seats).
The set is a circus tent with various stage items which the company will bring. The tent backcloth will be suspended from the LX grid. (It is very light.) The back wall of the tent will be hung in front of the black backcloth by fold-over ropes and carabinas.
Good computerised lighting facilities are required.
Good sound amplification is vital. SFX are provided on APPLE LAPTOP. (Minijack to appropriate desk input required)
A Shotgun Mic or Radio Mic (Lapel only) to run through desk to effects processor required set pre-fade.
TECHNICAL SPECS are supplied by downloading. Lighting Cues: approximately 70 in 10 states.
LX/SFX Cue script provided on day. Where LX and SFX can be run by one person, company stage manager will run the show. Where the two stations are apart, the show will be require 1 in house technician to self cue from explicitly numbered Cue-Script which will be provided. Some simultaneous LX & SFX cues will be rehearsed.
Approximate get in, rig and set up (from rough focus) and fine focus time 5 hours including LX programming time of 1 hour. Rehearsal time with in house technicians 1 Hour.
We travel with a disc for Strand but mostly, the show will be programmed from the submasters into timed cues using a cue list provided here.
TO REITERATE: IF ALL LX CUES ARE PRE-PROGRAMMED THIS PRODUCTION CAN BE OPERATED BY ONE COMPETENT TECHNICIAN. (SOUND, LIGHTS and MIC ARE GO BUTTON OPPED AND ALL SFX ARE PRE-LEVELLED.) BUT... IF SOUND AND LIGHTS CANNOT BE OPPED FROM SAME AREA, THE SHOW WILL REQUIRE TWO OPERATORS. Rehearsal time with venue operators after focus: 1.5 hours max.