Theatre review: Ghetto Klown at Charing Cross Theatre

Actor John Leguizamo presents his life story from the depths of the ghetto to the glittering heights of Hollywood

Sixties music ushers in a dancing John Leguizamo as he begins his one-man autobiographical show. The story unfolds chronologically, which explains both the retro tunes and Leguizamo’s hoodie attire.

Song and dance frame Leguizamo’s tale, starting in Queens (lovingly dubbed the “scrotum of New York”) and ending, more or less, in Hollywood. Known for such roles as Tybalt in Romeo+Juliet and the voice of Sid in Ice Age, Leguizamo describes his struggle to become a professional actor.

The tale may be an old one, but he transforms it by addressing the obstacles he has faced in a frank manner.

Leguizamo’s difficult relationship with his father, for example, frequently takes centre stage, and is made painfully poignant by its lack of resolution. The actor resists tying up loose ends, presenting his life as an ongoing series of challenges.

Despite some initial stumbling over lines and technical difficulties, Leguizamo successfully immerses the audience in his past. He negotiates between humour – impressions of celebrities he has worked with are hilariously spot on – and depression, as he recounts memories of heartbreak and betrayal. His emotion is incredibly raw throughout.

A screen projects photographs and video clips, aiding his story. At times, the footage is facile and clich�, though, on the whole, it adds a helpful dimension.

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Leguizamo may be alone on stage, but he ably populates it with the characters from his life, and brings the audience along for a sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful but ultimately cathartic and worthwhile adventure.

* Ghetto Klown is showing at the Charing Cross Theatre, in The Arches, WC2, until Saturday, November 12.