I entered the stage, walking as normally as my flippers permitted, breathing through my snorkel and peering at the audience through steamed-up goggles. I stopped, smiled, turned my toes out neatly. They laughed. I shifted the goggles to my forehead, taking the red nose with them. ‘I’m not a clown,’ I told them, ‘I’m a researcher.’ They laughed again. ‘No, really…’
I was one of 16 performers in a Clown Cabaret Scratch Night at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, organised by CloWnStePPing and Plutôt la Vie (14th November 2014). Many of the performers were experienced in cabaret, circus, theatre and street arts; their acts were based on a variety of themes, including dance, magic, maths, true stories and romance. Acts for the show were selected by audition and then developed with feedback from the organisers, themselves experienced clown performers and directors. In my own act, I explained my journey from bad student at Gaulier’s school, to enthusiastic researcher, to exhausted and anxious postgraduate in the final stages of completing my thesis, to excited but intimidated performer. I paid particular attention to the clown techniques I have explored theoretically in my thesis, ‘The work of a clown is to make the audience burst out laughing’: Learning Clown at École Philippe Gaulier. These techniques took the form of displaying the ridiculousness of my body, playing a game with the audience’s input, and acknowledging when they did not laugh, which Gaulier calls ‘the flop’. Trying out my own material amongst this company was a daunting task, but it was an excellent opportunity to meet what turned out to be a surprisingly large community of other performers and fans of clowning. Another surprise was how many audience members I spoke to that didn’t believe I really am a researcher…
Photo © Mihaela Bodlovic – www.aliceboreasphotography.com
Written By: Lucy Amsden, PhD Candidate, Theatre Studies
More information on the event can be found here.