The Dirty Brothers Sideshow – The Dark Party
The Dirty Brothers @ Le Cascadeur
10:15pm, Tue 10 Mar 2009
Falling in the “Circus” category of the Fringe Guide and using “surreal” in their little 50-word precis was enough to chance my arm with The Dirty Brothers. And as I sat waiting for the show to start, listening to Death In Vegas’ amazing Death Threat (thanks, Shazam!), there was a distinctly dirty feel in Le Cascadeur. Rough. Dark. But exciting.
The Dirty Brothers are morose fuckers – moping around in their grubby trench-coats with upside-down lampshades around their necks, there’s barely a flicker of anything unlike a frown that crosses their faces; all the while, they’re performing the sort of body-damaging hijinks that have become synonymous with late-night Garden shows. They eat razor blades, live grubs, and broken glass. They swallow swords (as seen earlier at Club Cascadeur). There’s the old drop-the-bowling-ball-on-the-stomach-while-lying-on-a-bed-of-nails routine (as seen at Scattered Tacks). Car battery shenanigans, tons of piercings, and a mopey frolic through a field of mousetraps.
The sole light-hearted moment comes about halfway through the performance; the Brothers had previously roamed the crowd, pressing ping-pong balls into patrons hands. We all held onto them, puzzled; minutes later, the three Brothers stood mid-stage, bowed slightly, and started gently rotating. Left to right to left. And it was then we realised what the inverted lampshades around their necks were for: we had our own live Laughing Clown sideshow on stage. Almost as one, the audience hurled their ping-pong balls towards the Brothers’ lampshades; the wave of floaty dots was unforgettable.
Yes, we’ve probably seen most of it before. But, for me, it’s the mood of the Brothers themselves that makes this show work; those perennial expressions of glumness, without descending into the lampoonery of Sad Clowns, somehow elevate these stunts to a new level. The atmosphere adds an element of danger, too, and – as I mentioned before – it’s all quite exciting.