Written and performed by Fiona Ross. Directed by Julie Cohn
Currently playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, aptly enough at the KINK boutique, Fiona Ross’s “one-woman, Queer clown sex-ed show” can finally give you an insight into that oft-asked question, Is That How Clowns Have Sex?
Actually, there are likely to be more overriding questions than that one, as Ross invites the audience, pre-show, to submit a slip of paper asking everything they wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask.
No need to be afraid though, whatever your position on the scariness or otherwise of clowns, as Ross is a likable, playful and completely frank stage presence. Yes, she wears a red nose, blue lipstick, silly frilly costumes and favours a cartoonish squeaky voice, but there’s an underlying seriousness to the show: Ross is an accredited sex educator and many of her answers, hilariously zany as they often are, are coming from an informed, sensible – and sensitive – place.
That said, there’s one area you might want to avoid, and that’s getting too personal with Ross. Thus one unlucky punter, during a performance at the Montreal Fringe, got called out for submitting a question as to whether she ever uses her clown persona for erotic cosplay. (The questions were anonymous, but it’s likely that whoever that questioner was, he/she was squirming under Ross’s withering response.)
Mostly, though, questioners were tactful enough to stick to generalised queries about, say, masturbation, sex aids, clitoral stimulation and STDs. Ross, clearly anticipating such questions, comes armed with a bag full of quasi sex toys (actually, distinctly un-erotic household objects) and puppets of impish little viruses and bacteria. But as a skilled improviser, she’s also ready to think on her feet and skip off into the surreal, including, at one point, making an imaginary bonfire of Freud’s painfully patriarchal theories on female sexual desire.
The show itself took some time to ignite — I could have comfortably lost at least half of an introductory demonstration which had Ross operating two horny puppets from behind a screen. Once she gets into her stride though, this makes for a fun show with lots of (non-threatening) audience participation from a teacher able to make you sit up straight and often double over.
Ross is a two-time Spirit of the Fringe winner at the Montreal Fringe (2016/17). She was also named Montreal’s Best Kisser in 2015, so, despite that prohibition on questions that get too personal, maybe asking advice on the best way to lock lips might not be too far out of bounds.