Full frontal at the forefront

By Narelle Wood

Grumble: Sex Clown Saves the World seemed like an intriguing premise for a show; the title alone peaked my curiosity. Unfortunately what unfolded over the next hour did not hold any where near the same appeal for me as the name.


Emma Maye emerged on stage as Betty Grumble, made up to look more like a stereotypical drag queen than clown. This was the most thought-provoking it got, as I began to wonder exactly what constitutes a clown. The show consisted of a lot of shimming, slapping and shaking along with some explicit moves and some very full and very nude, full frontal nudity. To say that Maye left it all on the stage is an understatement. While the nudity might be considered part of an act that identifies itself as feminist, I thought the sexual antics were there for shock value rather than necessarily trying to make a statement, or at the very least a coherent statement. There were a number of political messages thrown out to the audience, including the evils of reality t.v. stars, mining magnates and of course the patriarchy. There certainly was no fresh perspective being offered.

For me, the combination of sex-clowning and world-saving didn’t work. The idea of sex clowning seemed to be nothing more than an excuse to turn the cabaret into adult entertainment. There was also very little saving of the world. There was a stereotypical and earnest message at the end that one person can make a difference, oh, and don’t forget to buy the merchandise on your way out.

To be fair, even though I really didn’t like this show, I seemed to be in the minority. There were some very good tone shifts and Maye certainly captivated her audience; a much younger and more alternative crowd than I represent. Maye can clearly sing but mostly favoured miming instead. She can also clearly dance, but for me naked high kicks are something I’m okay with only seeing once in my life. And I think that is another problem I have with the show; the 18+ rating in no way indicates how graphic this show is, and that feels dishonest.

I left feeling confused about the show’s purpose, a show that was only seemingly held together by the very annoying persona of Betty Grumble. In short, I won’t be rushing back, but if you fit the demographic and appreciate the exploration into disjunctive, graphic theatre then this may be, not necessarily entertaining, but an interesting adventure.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: Until Sunday 11th, 8.30pm

Tickets: Full $32| Conc $28

Bookings: thebutterflyclub.com/show/grumble-sex-clown-saves-the-world