This is a hard blog to start. It’s a hard blog to start because I’m trying to get it “right.” What will draw my dear blog reader in? Maybe throw in a Jaques Lecoq quote so you look smart? Maybe make a Ronald McDonald clown joke? This same feeling daunted me when embarking on Clown Camp - the fear of the unknown and of getting it right. Sure, I’d done a bit of clowning before but having previously worked with Amy, I knew this was set to be unlike anything I’d ever done before. And, whilst trying to not get everything right, boy, I wasn’t wrong.
Clowning Queen, Amy Gwilliam, put us through our paces on a three day intensive Clown Camp. “Clown Camp?” I hear you ask “Sounds like fun! It’s just like red noses and making people laugh and stuff, right?” Absolutely not - well, maybe a bit of that BUT it’s also about humanity (woop big word) This is a quality that performers and directors alike grapple with and strive to attain. A word so intrinsically linked with what many artists aspire to have; vulnerability and truth. Many may assume (as I did) that you’re doing the complete opposite of that with clown. Putting on a nose, trying to make the audience laugh, adopting affectation etc. but actually, as Amy puts it, clowning is the most sensitive of sports, and one that requires a huge amount of technique, whilst wearing the smallest mask in the world that reveals the most (that is actually a quote from somewhere – just saying.)
The idea of The Theatre of The Unknown was introduced to us early on, which actually seemed to comfort us as a group. You’re not meant to know what’s going on or what’s going to happen next or what to do because, guess what? No one does! Phew, okay, now we’ve got that out the way we can actually have some fun. Just take a risk in not knowing. There’s a lot of fun to being aware that you’re unaware. It’ll all make sense soon, I promise (or not - who knows!) As a group, we really had to retreat, or perhaps more aptly, move forward to reach a place that de-wires the “genius” part of our minds in order to access so much more creatively. Instead of over thinking everything, just do the thing and the humanity will shine through the cracks. Trusting yourself to not need to put on a character or to feel the pressure to perform, but to just be. Obviously we got there through intensive dancing, cat walk competitions and lot of silliness along the way.
A real turning point for us as a group was the idea that in clowning you can’t get bored of trying if you are endlessly hopeful about the process. You have to do everything within your power to stay on stage, you cannot be lazy or dwell on things that didn’t work. Everything that happens fuels and drives you. Ultimately, you can’t just ignore your flops, you must turn them out to show and share with your audience. Everything that happens in the clown world is absolutely meant to happen, so you cannot apologise for anything. A celebration of mishaps and mistakes that can turn in to your best act. Treasure and cherish your trips and your falls, transforming your pain in to pleasure. Just an idea to keep in your back pocket that can be applied to so many different aspects of life - whether that be pursuing your dream, writing a blog or trying to make an audience laugh.
Amy Gwilliam's next Clown Camp is on Thursday 28th - Saturday 30th November at The Mono Box in Bermondsey. www.themonobox.co.uk/creativity