The Rules of Inflation

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2016


Caragh Aylett

at 21:18 on 17th Aug 2016



‘The Rules of Inflation’ is the most gruesome piece of theatre that I have seen at the Fringe. It depicts a clown at a children’s birthday party who forces the children to play strange, sexual and disturbing games. The performance is mostly presented through physical theatre with the addition of a few spoken lines.

The piece constantly makes uncomfortable sexual references through innocent children’s party games. In one scene, the audience participate in a game of pass the parcel with the prize being a condom. As I am the person who has to announce this to the room of strangers, I become very aware of the discomfort this causes audience members. Such awkwardness seems pointless: indeed, it is never mentioned again.

One particularly disturbing scene features a clown demanding children to ‘dance like a whore’. This includes the addition of a phallic shaped balloon, and later mentions onstage rape. This section is horrific watching, and while I truly believe that sometimes it is necessary for theatre to make the audience uncomfortable, this piece does so without making any useful points. The sexual references almost make light of paedophilia, child abuse and the sexualization of children, and this play chooses to make references to such heavy topics without fully unpacking or condemning them. The decision to make entertainment out of such a theme is hugely disturbing.

To its credit, the setting of the piece is well executed. With balloons, bright costumes, cake and party bags at the beginning I initially felt hopeful about this child’s birthday party. However, this hope is quickly diminished by the actors' failures to fully inhabit the roles of children. Something is missing in their performances, and the innocence and clumsiness of children is not fully presented. Equally, while the actions of the clown are truly terrifying, the actor could do more with the physicality of the role. Ultimately, the acting is disappointing, but it is the plot of the piece that is the primary cause of my dislike.

‘Rules of Inflation’ presents a horrific event which resists dealing with its themes in a sensitive manner. It is truly a grotesque and unnecessary piece of theatre.


Ben Ray

at 12:24 on 18th Aug 2016



'The Rules of Inflation' is a deflating, unnecessary piece of theatre that has a lot in common with Donald Trump. They’re both full of obscenities, they are both doomed to failure, and the world would be a better place if neither existed.

The write up for this play states that it explores a children’s world where ‘there are rules to follow’, though this premise seems to be an exceedingly loose cover for gratuitous abuse and strange, needless filth. If anything, this theme is over simplistic, and becomes stagnant after the first few minutes of foulness. The interpretation is straightforward, and panders to what seems like a dirty, drunken joke. If the theme of the destruction of childhood is going to be explored, there are better and more watchable ways to approach it than simply acting out children’s games with increasingly gross and filthy twists- a concept made even more pointless by its one track, straightforward nature. Once a clown has made one child rape another with a balloon, every other act seems to be just revelling in obscenity for its own voyeuristic enjoyment.

Watching this, one gets the sense that the script’s author didn’t entirely know what they were trying to address. The play’s theme, of a disturbed clown interrupting a children’s innocent birthday party to wreak havoc and instil corruption and abuse, is interspersed with seemingly random and shallow references to the recent EU and Brexit debate. I don’t know if anyone has let the cast know, but simply writing the words ‘EU Ballot’ on a box and then making an actor read a paragraph about ‘the mistake of Brexit’ does not make a show topical.

Apart from this minor farce, about ten other words are uttered throughout the entire play, a fact I can’t quite place as a blessing or a curse. The empty gap in explanation for their acts, such as a pass the parcel that ends in a condom, gives the whole rigmarole a sense of pointlessness. If no one feels the need to explain why children are being made to kill each other by a psychotic clown, then the message behind the play is so simplistic that we don’t need to be told it at all.

Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, or hypocritical in my needlessly over-blown vitriol. Perhaps I even walked into the wrong show. Whatever my position, I would recommend you don’t go and find out for yourself.


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