Clowns on a journey

Our second clowning class with Karen began with a trust exercise of allowing ourselves to fall and be caught by the others, uttering only an “uh-oh!” of warning – this brought us back to the ‘yippee’ energy, a simple ‘impulse forward’ without fear of how things will play out. We recapped a few of the other principles that we’d looked at last time, namely the importance of simplicity – less is more – and complicity in the game (0r complicité, to give it its proper name). We then explored these further through a couple of exercises.

Firstly, three clowns come and sit on a bench and either look out at the audience, or at one of the others – this is their one and only decision. No need to plan, or think of motivation. Doing so little is unexpectedly intense and challenging but just this allows the audience to begin to interpret or imagine their relationship and personality. The clown’s job is just to be there. Simplicity!

The second exercise involves two clowns coming on from opposite corners, each with a suitcase and taking some kind of path to reach the front of the stage, to arrive at the front to deliver a message – which they then realise they have forgotten, and so must exit the same way they entered. Many more decisions to be made – how and where to walk, how to react to and interact with each other – but the simplest gestures and movements still work best, and complicity – with each other, but also using eye contact to involve the audience – is what makes the performance really engaging.

And finally, a brief opportunity to try a bit of solo clown with one very simple instruction: come in, and sit on the chair. I loved watching Sarah’s wide-eyed clown ending up impersonating a turtle with the chair on her back. Having a go myself, I enjoyed the challenge of purely ‘going with the flow’ – and somehow ending up as a French-speaking would-be seductress with an over-inflated ego and an enormous carrot for a pet cat. The fun of this journey is never quite knowing where you’re going, how you’ll get there or what on earth will happen when you do.

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