The clown who was not dead (or beginning adventures with my nose)

Ever since I started clowning I have been itching to take it outside the playspace. Just to see what happens. Quite sensibly our teacher hasn’t really discussed us taking our clowns outside  but today’s Zombie march seemed to good an opportunity to miss. So I went a bit feral and decided to take my clown to the streets of Bristol to see what if any reaction I would get and to practice my performance skills. I hadn’t done anything like this before, bar a stint in show promotions when I was younger which involved performing in costume and singing songs from our musical up and down Chatham high street whilst teenagers threw chips at us.

I decided to use the zombie march as it was a reasonably safe space to do something a bit out of the ordinary and to test reactions and audience interactions. The costume I put together was really a bit cobbled and could have been better – I wasn’t really sure what I was going for as long as it looked colourful and out of context against all the other zombies. All clown rules applied which was a bit confusing for others as I was only communicating using gesture, sound and eye contact.

Comments received from both zombies and zombie spectators:

  •  ‘Yeah thanks very fucking much for that’
  • ‘Whats that about?
  • Er?
  • ‘We really are dead, we are really really dead’
  • ‘Clearly you are not dead, are you’
  • ‘That’s awesome’
  • ‘Your sense of humour appears to be’
  • ‘What does it mean?
  • Is it about life?
  • Is it about how we should celebrate life?
  • An optimistic zombie!
  • Can I take your photo?

I think I probably learnt more walking on the way to the march than throughout it as I got more of an impression how people react to a clown in public. When set against the context of the zombie march it was easy to disappear amongst all the frenzied zombie activity, so at these times it seemed more sensible to be still and frozen in a high place or just to walk in a really calm manner so as to juxtapose the two types of activity. Normal clown behaviour (mimicry and play) was also often difficult as people were trying to act in the same way I struggled with coming up with anything that was more exaggerated than the existing performance.  I did manage to get a few laughs – specifically with some zombie morris dancers (my clown was a bit sulky in the morning as she felt her legs were not musical enough) so it was a lot of fun to find a group of jingly zombies and enthusiastically copy their dancing which they seemed to find hilarious – also I made friends with zombie clowns and also had a habit of following anyone carrying a similar umbrella to my own, much to the amusement of onlookers.  I made friends with a couple sitting in a street cafe and a number of children seemed to find my pranks quite funny.

The march provided a halfway house to test out my performance ideas – the only downside was interacting with people that were out in our group or that I saw and knew – I couldn’t drop out of character until I took my nose off, but after a while they worked out what I was doing, and I stayed in clown for around 2.5 hours.

The event seemed to pass peacefully  – it ended in Castle Park and it was a shame there was no music or dancing after. Whilst I am conscious I have been neglecting my photography lately the chance to take my clown out was too much to pass up. That being said I did miss my little clown troupe. The reactions were interesting and certainly made me aware of how the same thing can be interpreted differently by people and that performing/art is going to attract an array of feedback, but as long as people have something to say or at least think about it then I am happy.

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