I have just returned from Singapore
where I was fortunate enough to share clown and physical comedy with the second
year BA acting students at LASALLE. The idea of sharing clown for the first
time in a ‘non-western’ context was daunting to say the least. I was briefly paralysed
by the usual ‘what a fraud am I’ routine. But realised I really just need to go
back to my motto: Humility, Humour & Hope. After all a function and role
of clown could be to put the spotlight on those three things for humanity, right?
"The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them" - Molière
(his gendering not mine)
The sensitivity the clown needs
to bring to any scenario is paramount. From there true listening can take place,
for me sensitivity is born out of a place of humility. That place of humbleness
that allows for subtle information to be transmitted. Guided by empathy. Taking
the time to really notice what is happening around you atmospherically and emotionally
“Maybe I have the fear of
being the 'poop' when I always try to be good with things that I do. But you
see… a 3 year old kid won't correlate his/her self-worth to how much they fail.
As grandiose as it sounds, clowning in its essence really stands for humility and sharing joy with others. This is where naivety is being embraced. But here
we are, as we age, we are being tested of my humility and we build walls among ourselves,
so we are incapable of being vulnerable in front of others, we become selfish and mean. How wonderful it is to see, feel and even be that 3-year-kid who
loves nothing more than joy, pleasure and simplicity of the world? And the
simple joy of just playing through happy accidents.” – reflection from one
of the students.
Humour is a delicate double-edged
sword. On the true edge is healthy humour and the false side isn’t. Laughing at
ourselves and with others verses ridicule and laughing at people. It is
so easy to use the latter. Social platforms in today’s society are a great
example of that. To resist that easy quick wit takes virtue. Aristotle’s
12 virtues come to mind.
“when i first heard that
clowning was for the whole week, i couldn’t wait for it to be over. and now
that the week is over, i am utterly dismayed. i got less and less nervous as
the week passed. the nervousness turned into excitement, and excitement turned
into eagerness. i never expected to enjoy myself, yet here i am, with my
friends, re-enacting what happened in class, and other people are staring. but
it doesn’t matter. we’re having fun.” – reflection from one of the
Hope is more sophisticated than
the ‘glass is half full’ approach or attitude. The clown informs us that against all
adversity we will prevail. They remind us that is not about how many times
we get knocked down. It’s about how many times we dust ourselves off and get
back up again.
“What really struck me was ‘you
are not there to be funny’ and “there is no character, only clown” and not to
have an attitude as clown, never show them that you are
disheartened/disappointed. There were just a lot of revelations throughout the
experience.” – reflection from one of the students.
"The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory in over coming it" - Moliere
The glue that holds my motto of humility,
humour and hope together is joy and pleasure. Despite it all - it is paramount to maintain joy and pleasure.
“Finding your joy is not about
the denial of your current state, but finding what is wonderful in it and also
what is wonderful about sharing it with your audience. Clowning is not about
denial, you acknowledge and revel in it, be it a flop or a success.” –
reflection from one of the students.
What underpins all this work is a
sense of vulnerability. Vulnerability is not about being exposed, it is about
being seen. To step into the light.
“Vulnerability for me is hard
to access sometimes as an actor and an actor with an ensemble. One of the
exercises we were made to do had us to stand in front of our peers and just “be
present”. It sounds easy but to be a “clean template”, to be comfortable and
not behind any impulsive behaviours, was an extremely challenging thing to do.
However this innocence, joy and pleasure that i was starting to find gave me a
new sense of independence from all the habits that i created as an actor trying
to hide my insecurities. That was one of the biggest takeaways from clowning. This idea carried on for all the exercises that we did, and i believe for the future of my theatrical ventures in my career. Helped me as a human being and
an actor.” – reflection from one of the students.
What a deeply joyous week. Thank you second year BA acting students of Lasalle. I learnt so much.