From a commanding diva to a punk-rock enthusiast, a fresh wave of clowns graced the stage on Monday evening, marking the commencement of the London Clown Festival, which honors modern clowning.

The festival, which runs through July 26, features clowning and physical performances from the UK and beyond. "When individuals consider clowning, they often envision a red nose, makeup, or perhaps a children's performer. They might be astonished to learn that many of our clowns eschew makeup and vary in appearance," explained festival artistic director Dan Lees to Reuters.

"We employ various theatrical and comedic styles, drawing inspiration from contemporary clowning." Lees, who initiated the festival in 2016, regards clowning as a "reviving art form." The festival's roster includes the silent act "Furiozo," characterized as "a fierce hooligan with a tender core," and the teasing diva "Madame Senorita."

Riss Obolensky, who emceed the opening cabaret at London's Soho Theatre, noted a shift in public perception as clowning moves beyond traditional confines. "Increasingly, people recognize what clowning entails... they're aware of those trained in it or... understand its essence," Obolensky observed.