Molly Stewart

Latitude Festival comedy review: Stuart Bowden, Before Us

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Stuart Bowden’s Before Us in the Cabaret tent was an immensely buoying, interactive story-telling mini-adventure of an angsty, lonely, last-of-his-species creature (clad in a ruched sleeping bag frock and – apparently – not much else).

The creature jitters through the wood searching for… what it is isn’t clear, perhaps to Bowden’s creation itself. The show is funny, heart-achingly so: bizarrely there is much to be said for Bowden’s wearing a microphone – his audible breathing during a tree-climbing mime seems to make the whole awkward thing subtly more genuine.

Bowden’s act is a concoction of story-telling, modestly clever comedic writing and brittle clowning about. His miming – the tree climb, with various methods; pulling himself through bushes and hauling himself over bundles of twigs; simply walking – is hilariously self-aware exaggeration. The loop pedal spooling Bowden’s swing beats and beatboxing, and his occasional referral to his act prevent it becoming heavily stagey.

At the centre, Bowden’s innocent, pleading, alone little character forms a show that, while undeniably bizarre, pulls in the full spectrum of audience members (of all ages, etc.) and at one point finds an audience member willing to let Bowden touch his eyeball. Some acts make pains to befriend an audience: none more so than here. Bowden’s isn’t a stand-up or sketch show, but pure interactive and physically inventive story-telling that sees a character so desperate glean actual tangible responses from its audience.

His physicality, on stage and amongst the audience (rather, party members at a house party in a hollowed out log. Stuart Bowden successfully prevents his audience from becoming too sedate, too much a watching crowd and more a part of the story.

His finale was, without wanting to sound bleakly cliché, properly life-affirming: Bowden’s beast jumps to his death from a tree, calling for the audience to surround him, hold hands, close our eyes, deep breath, open again etc.And he emerges from a cocoon to reveal tiny golden shorts in which he flies out of the Cabaret tent, the rest of us still holding hands and singing the show’s theme in unison.


Date of live review: Sunday 19 July 2015 @ Henham Park, Suffolk.