Hell is a strange and disquieting landscape in Clout Theatre’s latest show. It’s a space in which demises are reimagined and memories set on repeat; where public speaking can result in collapse and a simple game of skipping quickly turns nasty. Everyday anxieties are turned up several notches, with added gore thrown in for good measure.
Peeling themselves from the floor and clutching cups and saucers, the three figures at the centre of this new piece are stuck in an endlessly repeating cycle of living and dying. Suicides are excitedly recalled and re-enacted, while brutal murders are executed with childish grins. The series of odd, loosely connected vignettes are both grotesque and banal, implicitly meditating on the futility of life and the tedium of death. A bloodbath can be contrasted with a list of household chores, while the constant presence of the tea cups maintains an element of the everyday in even the most surreal of sequences.
While the Lecoq trained Clout Theatre come from a clowning tradition that tends to dominate at the Edinburgh Fringe, their take on this aesthetic is decidedly darker than the painfully twee offerings of their peers. Rarely is white face still this genuinely menacing. Gurning and grimacing, the three performers are at once monstrous and strangely mesmerising, seizing on the same kind of morbid fascination that makes drivers slow down as they pass a car crash. The company are also gleefully liberal in their use of fake blood, which is smeared across faces and splattered on the billowing plastic sheets of the set.
Although the visual images crafted by Clout Theatre are bold and often beautiful, they are awkwardly caught somewhere between the literal and the abstract. As they are, these scenes feel like a string of stage images and little more. Given an even more surreal edge, they might invite more abstract connections, leaving behind the need to wonder how they slot into a unifying structure. As a brief snatch of sinister clowning, however, The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity offers a darkly diverting 40 minute escape from the suffocating whimsy elsewhere.