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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Cord in the act
The Umbilical Brothers hail from Australia
The Umbilical Brothers had the sell-out crowd in knots
By BBC News Online's Olive Clancy in Edinburgh

Does your heart sink when you hear the word clown?

Add "physical" and "slapstick" and I get visions of my father watching Laurel and Hardy, tears of mirth rolling down his cheeks while I, his incredulous and deeply untickled offspring looked on with a teenage sneer of superiority.

No, clowns do not usually do it for me, but clowns are a large part of what the Edinburgh Festival is all about, so along I went to see the Umbilical Brothers.

Happily, the Australian duo manage to be slapstick, physical clowns without remotely resembling anything my father would recognise.

The pair bound about with immaculate timing, one providing a soundtrack to the others' antics.

They are indeed funny - the sell-out crowd at this performance were in knots. And they certainly can perform - they synchronise their movements perfectly.

The Umbilical Brothers
The Umbilical Brothers are not for those with cynical humour
But I ended up feeling like that grumpy teenager watching Laurel and Hardy. Have we not seen all this before?

Those clever mouth-to-mic soundtracks - that used to be a regular feature of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

What about the buzzing mimed fly that won't die despite repeated slapstick thumping and pesticide spraying?

I distinctly remember Bobo the clown at Fawcett's circus doing something suspiciously similar sometime in the late 70s (for the record my Da was a big fan of both Fawcett's and Bobo).

The Umbilical Brothers are incredibly successful. They have appeared on David Letterman and Jay Leno shows and left Time Out New York and the New York Times spluttering adulations.

Maybe I have been over-exposed to the cynical humour of the 90s. The part of the show that I liked best was the dour and uncooperative roadie who came on in a decidedly sinister-looking traditional clown's costume.

I do appreciate great movements and obvious visual gags, but clowning still does not do it for me. My father, on the other hand, would have loved it.

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