The Ongals: Babbling Comedy.
OzAsia Festival. Space Theatre. Adelaide Festival Theatre. October 7 and 8 2017
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
They’re zany.They’re crazy and they’re a bundle of fun. They’re The Ongals from South Korea, and the only madcap performance in the OzAsia Festival for the very young. They bounce out brightly in baby jump suits with polka dots and coloured bibs for their babbling comedy show. With their crazy hairstyles, silly antics and slapstick humour, they are the Three Stooges of Asian comedy, delighting young and old with their fumbling, bumbling circus clown routines.
A Toy Box rests under a single spot, ready to reveal surprise after surprise. A paint roller becomes a spinning indicator. A fly spray becomes the endless source of bum fun and a pump to blow up a plastic glove on one of the clown’s head as the fingers turn into a hen’s coxcomb. The lavatory gags come thick and fast to delight young kids. Wherever in the world clowns come together to create a world of fun and laughter,their humour transcends cultures and generations. It’s not all slapstick and lavatory humour. These are skilled performers, adept at the art of juggling rubber eggs, magic rings that slide apart and change their colours before our very eyes, juggling clubs and even knives to thrill and terrify.
Every show must have an unsuspecting volunteer from the audience to be the fall guy for their tricks. A willing affable adult came forward to take part in a wonderfully orchestrated bell chorus that played O,Susanna and London Bridge is Falling Down. It’s all very harmless participation until the same victim is chosen for the suspenseful and deadly whip-cracking routine, too dangerous for any of the clowns to risk their lives, but just the thing for some poor blindfolded innocent from the audience, who took it all in good humour and let the blindfolded whip cracker flick the wood from his lips. “Oh my God!” cries a woman from the audience as the whip snaps through the air and the wood mysteriously sails from the lips with the help of a clown standing by. But then how was the willing victim to know? Surely he had no idea of how this dangerous escapade would play out ...or did he ??
The programme claimed that there were four members of the comedy troupe, and the fourth baby eventually arrived to demonstrate his special skill on the microphone, blowing the accompaniment to a beat box while the stage became a disco floor and the Babbling Comedy bounced along to a stunning finale of whirling colour filled juggling clubs in a single spot that lit them like a spinning Catherine Wheel.
The Ongals explode with energy, fuelled by the sheer madcappery of their clowning. It’s non-stop, laugh a minute tomfoolery and fun-filled mayhem for young and not so young alike.