Natalie Palamides

Natalie Palamides

Date of birth: 06-01-1990
American actress – she's the voice of Buttercup in the Powderpuff Girls – and comedian who won the best newcomer award at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe for her show LAID
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Apocalypse Clown

Review of new movie starring David Earl and Natalie Palamides

The title makes it sound like it could be a slasher horror flick, especially given that clowns don’t exactly have the cuddliest reputation on film. But Apocalypse Clown is a daft Irish comedy road trip which strains its ridiculous premise but just about gets away with it thanks to strong central performances and a script that keeps slapping the viewer with gags like so many custard pies.

David Earl brings his usual empathetic, sad-sack energy to the lead role of washed-up kids’ entertainer Bobo – ‘cheaper than a babysitter’ proclaims the slogan on his clapped-out clown car. His disillusionment with the job that had been his dream since childhood is made complete when he’s sacked from a job amusing hospital patients in favour of a child magician.

Yet when clowning legend Jean DuCoque (cue plenty of puerile jokes on that name) – now an intense tutor in the mould of Jacques Lecoq or Phillippe Gaulier – dies, Bobo makes the pilgrimage to his funeral in a small country town.

There, he meets the clowns with whom he’ll make an alliance of convenience. The Great Alphonso (Tadhg Murphy), a has-been star but utter hack desperate to make a comeback, the useless Pepe (Fionn Foley) who just doesn’t understand even the basics of the artform despite all his study, and Funzo, the scary clown who makes Pennywise look like a pussycat. This role’s a gift to the ever-compelling Natalie Palamides, stealing every scene with her intensely manic and unhinged performance, wringing every ounce of comedy out her lines, such as suggesting the new ad-hoc troupe be known as ‘ClownPedo, like a torpedo of clowns.

The fifth member of this unlikely circle is journalist Jenny (Amy De Bhrún), who once had a one-night stand with Bobo in a broom cupboard. Something she’s keen to forget, but her colleagues at a Buzzfeed style website keep taunting her about – and which Bobo is keen to revisit, given it offered one glimmer of kindness in his miserable life.

After a cataclysmic event wipes out every electrical system in Ireland – and apparently huge swathes of the population, too – they must make a cross-country trip back to Dublin, each with their own motive.

In pursuit are two human statues – one as James Joyce, the other as the Statue Of Liberty – out to eke bloody revenge on Funzo after she ripped one of their ears off with her teeth. They are played by Shane O’Brien and James Walmsley who co-wrote the script with Demian Fox – collectively known as the comedy-musical outfit Dead Cat Bounce – and the film’s director George Fox.

The road trip has its ups and downs for the viewer as much as the clowns – a diversion to a drug-fuelled hippy commune seems particularly fruitless – but the relentless jokes make it worth sticking with, even if they don’t always chime with the more depressing realities at the heart of the clowns’ lives.

Our infamous five end up splitting up – Jenny and The Great Alphonso, in full panto baddie mode, go in search of a former boyband member turned tin-hatted conspiracy theorist Tim (Tadhg Murphy). He has a history with the once-famous clown as well as his own ad-hoc broadcasting system, ready for when this day would come.

Meanwhile, left alone with Bobo, both Funzo and Pepe have their own crises of confidence, worried that the world no longer needs clowns. Although ultimately the film plays like a love-letter to a misunderstood and under-appreciated art rather than a cheap swipe and an outdated form of entertainment.

Still, the silly jokes pile on as we move towards the excessive finale in a big top at an abandoned clown-based theme park. This plays out more like the end of a kids’ adventure than a 15-certificate thriller, despite the over-the-top violence. But perhaps that’s inevitable when all your main characters are in clownface.

But Apocalypse Clown has such clear intentions to be a warm, feel-good, slightly absurd romp that its failings never become overwhelming. And Palamides shows the intense star quality already obvious to anyone who’s witnessed the white heat of her live performances. 

• Apocalypse Clown will be in cinemas from Friday.

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Published: 30 Aug 2023

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Natalie Palamides: LAID

Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Natalie Palamides: Nate

Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Natalie Palamides: WEER (WIP)


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