I’d already decided I was going to write up my thoughts on clowning so far, (based at the Folk House, Bristol and run by http://hollystoppit.com/) but the group exercise we did at the end of class prior to half term ended up as a great poem which pretty much sums up the views of all of us. So I am trying to think if there is anything else I could say.. ….So then I wondered which words would be the most effective at describing A) some of the things we get up to in clown class and B) my feelings about it, but I am learning that a lot of the times, words are not actually necessary.
I’d always heard lots about ‘truthful acting’, and I was trying to get my head around how this would be achieved given (I’d imagined) how exaggerated and slapstick clowning could be. Its true that action and reaction can often be bigger and played directly to the audience but I’m learning that authenticity is at the heart of the clown. For me, it is quite a profound thing to get in touch with your inner child, but I was surprised how strong and evident our individual personalities are underneath as we learned to (re) engage with our primary selves and each other.
This is something I have struggled with in other classes – the idea of benevolence is often encouraged but this is the first class where I have felt truly comfortable to explore every idea without being reprimanded or criticised. Often in a more traditional classroom or teaching environment I have often been self-conscious of exploring my ideas or too keen to please – both of these instincts have blocked both my creativity and my authenticity. Being in an environment where there is no pressure to produce but just explore, play and create actually means I am far more effective in what I/we create and in touch with myself than in a traditional environment. The role of the ensemble is central to the idea of clown and working together with other people in such a trusting equitable environment makes creating so much easier.
Trial without error
Experimentation without consequences has led to greater performance possibilities. Coming from a mostly traditional theatre background expression is something which can feel tightly confined within defined roles, structure and action. To take this framework away and combine approaches has opened up a world of both personal and performance opportunities – both physical and temporal. Exploring bodies, sounds, movements, emotion, space, colours, rhythm. I even became a chocolate eclair in one lesson! Making new stories from old stories and building stories together – exploring what works and what doesn’t work…..S-T-R-E-T-C-H.
Presence is something that is also central in clown class. The idea of being present in the moment is something I find hard to do – I’m always busy or worrying about the day job, things I need to do. I’ve always found meditation, relaxation or maintaining my focus or attention on things difficult but in clown class its a lot easier. Additionally from a concentration perspective it encourages us to be present at regular intervals as well as at the beginning and end of a session which I found really helpful.
My favourite thing about clowning is that it is transferable. Skills learnt in clowning can bleed into ‘everyday’ life..but more than that the clown transcends normal barriers, language, class, race, as the simple common stories are played out. No sets, no scripts. You could go anywhere in the world, spread happiness to people who need it and make people laugh. A universal language. No words necessary.
So. After six weeks of our course, the story so far is that clowning is….
well.. that’s the whole point really…
It just is.
(and life is better for it)