Betty Grumble, sex clown and ecosexual queen, is here to save the world – again. Her opening number might be one of the most striking of this weird and wonderful Festival, but to call it shock performance is to miss the point completely. Grumble is a pioneer of body positive, sex positive, love positive performance art and there’s nobody else like her.
The energy hums around the room as soon as you head in, with Betty greeting us from the stage, surrounded by her hand-painted set. Her face is done up in psychedelic neons and her wig has volume Dolly Parton could only dream of. Clothes come off, costumes go on and the audience follow her every move, no matter how manic – or messy – things get.
In one segment of the show, Betty – having washed off her makeup earlier in a self-induced drowning – applies her face in a grotesque reimagining of a morning ritual most women in the audience could recognise. We are captivated. There’s a certain haunting nature to her caricatured glamour that rings back to horror melodramas like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and it’s impossible to look away.
This surreal critique of feminine aesthetic is a recurring theme throughout. When she dons her mother’s old bodybuilding bikini and refuses to let her body hair be ‘contained’, she promotes the returning of the body to nature, rather than redesigning it for the male gaze. Fluids are emulated and spilled in all their organic glory, and each member of the audience even gets to take away a souvenir.
The show is funny – she is a clown after all – but there is a tenderness and respect to her performance that supports her message: nobody is made to feel uncomfortable, and every audience member that participates is thanked.
Betty Grumble’s Love and Anger is a reclamation of the feminine body in all its juice, jiggles and joy. Read the vibe.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
Picture: Liz Ham
Betty Grumble: Love and Anger (Or Sex Clown Saves The World Again), Heroes at Monkey Barrel, Aug 23-27, 8pm