Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hi there.
How have you been?
Well I hope.
I haven't written here fora while.
A lot has happened since then.
Oh yes.
A lot.
I've been to Hungary to work on a show with 2 fellow Gaulier-ites which was great. Very funny, very strange and between us we brought something new into the world.
The bouffon experiment went well, I think.
I was happy with it. I'm looking forward to teaching it again.
I've been to Bristol to help a friend plan his show which has started rehearsals and I've also managed to get myself a job with a mask company Vamos Theatre. It's all good.
Rehearsals are in Worcester and we are touring through to June next year.

Wow Mark that's amazing, but why do we care about all that?
Surely that's just you gloating.

Well no, you see I want to keep this blog going. I'm not at school anymore but then it is school that is shaping my ideas on theatre so I think it juste to keep the blog with the same name. And I think it's constructive for me to keep a record of my thoughts.There is something about sitting here typing at the keyboard knowing that there is the possibility that others may read my observations that helps me to focus my mind rather than my noting it in a diary or journal, which I may never re-read. Helps me to cut the metaphorical fat away. Anyway I'm waffling. (I like that word. Say it out loud, it tastes good in the mouth as does the spanish word for joke - chufla) Anyway I digress

I went to see a show last night, "Johnny Come Lately" by Coal, directed by John Wright.
It was brilliant.
Very funny, very dark and at points I wonder should I be laughing at this?
At others I am slapping my thighs at the ridiculousness of the action.

It also makes me wonder what I want out of the theatre.
Do I want politically charged theatre?
Do I want social comment?
Do I want to be challenged and confronted by difficult material?

If I would answer yes to these questions then Johnny Come Lately ticks all these boxes.

But actually this isn't what I really care about in the theatre, I'm not sure if it's my place as an artist to try and appeal to an audience's intellect or their moral character. I'm not saying others shouldn't do it but me, I'm not intelligent enough to try and tackle big questions in my work. 
Me, I have my fun and this is what I can work with and clearly Coal work with theirs too. Not just the actors but the director too. I love John Wright as a director and teacher and in the after show discussion it is clear that the cast love working with him also.
But this blog is about learning not just what I like or don't like and here is the little nugget of gold for any readers. When Coal were describing their process they didn't look for what appealed to their intellect in the process they asked different questions, "what do we like?" and  "what do we find interesting?" and "what do we have fun with?" and "What makes us laugh?"
This is what it should be like when we create theatre, we should be interested, curious, and looking for the fun and recognising what's funny.
Thanks Coal for helping me to start to understand what I like about the theatre.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Workshop announcement

This is the workshop that Clown Lab will be running in the summer.
Really Hope that you can join us. 
It will be amazing. 

Clown Lab presents…


The Bouffon Experiment

An intensive 2 week workshop that delves right into the heart and art of the Bouffon Clown

From out the smoke and smog of the swamps a troop of Bouffon emerge armed with grotesque parody, blasphemy and their beautiful humanity. Limping and laughing, covered in blisters, rags and filth, the banished return to shock the sanctimonious children of God and take a knife to the jugular of the world’s bastards!

This workshop is ideal for anyone wishing to use humour as a weapon in their performance work to create powerful, visceral theatre that engages, shocks and provokes its audience.

Dates: July 23rd - 3rd August (rest day July 29th)

Venue: tbc but will be in or close to central Manchester

Prices: £140 full. £125 concession/early bird available till 1st June

Week 1: Explore the world of the Bouffon through game and exercise to help you discover the bouffon’s sensitivity, humour, extreme body shapes, and the performer’s pleasure to destroy the bastard through fun and parody.

Week 2: Continues your explorations and deepens your understanding by applying Bouffon to scenes from plays such as Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, Mistero Buffo by Dario Fo and Divine Words by Ramon Valle-Inclan culminating in an open showing for invited guests and members of the public.

The workshop will be led by Mark Winstanley, co-artistic director of Clown Lab who has studied intensively with Philippe Gaulier, internationally renowned teacher of Clown and Bouffon.

Attend a Clown Lab course and you will laugh, learn and be more creatively tested, both physically and emotionally, than you ever thought possible! Peter Cox MBE-Screenwriter, Playwright, Director

For more information please email


The beauty of the uglies

Just a quick note following on from my blog earlier this week.
Firstly bouffon with Philippe is without doubt one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Tramps, Trannies, Lesbians and Lunatics telling stories of how they have been spat on, shat on, taunted, teased and twatted by ignorant bastards.
The same bastards that have good jobs, wholesome families, live in nice houses, drive saloon cars, holiday twice a year and can regularly be seen playing golf.
The people who would punch and kick and piss on a homeless for fun, ha ha ha yes, for sport.
And there are many bastards who do such things.
Yes there are.
The drunken nights are full of them. The bloodied cardboard beds, black eyes and piss soaked sleeping bags attest this fact.
And so what if a tramp is given a kicking? What does it matter if these scroungers, these low lives, this gunge and scum of society are kicked and booted around by the bold and the beautiful.
The beautiful can do what they want, even if it's ugly.
And if it keeps happening to these people what then? How many times before the fear is kicked out of you? Before the tears stop flowing, before the frowning changes? The frowns turn upside down, the toothless smiles start and the laughter heaves up.
The laughter of the oppressed.
HWARRRRRRRRR! HHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaa hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaa.
Baaaastards. Ha ha ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahh. Fuckers. hihihihihihhiahhaahahahhaa
Dickheads. Haaahahahah.

The laughter in the face of the ignorant. The smiles at the faces of the hateful.

It is the holocaust survivor who laughs at the Nazi's for what they did.
The Tramp who snickers at the drunks who beat him.
The transvestite who giggles at the cunt who hocks green phlegm at them.
The queer who giggles at homophobic wankers.

The power of these people to laugh at their oppressors. Yes this laughter is powerful and the sensitivity of the performer to play this on stage is beautiful.

The beauty of the actor whose delicate sensitivity doesn't push to underline the suffering of these people. But says something in a beautiful way.
We have begun to glimpse this in Lee's light transvestite, in Barbara's charming lesbian, in Mia's staggeringly beautiful transexual and in Duncans disturbing lunatic.
All very different, all very powerful, all incredibly theatrical.
Stroll on imagination, what beauty will you discover in the rags and filth of the despised underclass yet?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

from the old to the new

So, Thursday... for the last 4 weeks we have been exploring the world of the medieval bouffon, the children of the devil whose home is the mud and swamps on the fringes of society, I've written a bit about this but Thursday was very different. A question in class was how do we use this work when we take away the physical deformity and move to contemporary bouffons. A concern of Philippe's was that when we moved from one to the other that it can be difficult, that we can lose something that the physical restrictions give us. He has said this earlier in the week and last week too. We talked quite a lot today. Normally Philippe keeps talking till the end of class but today we discussed the costume of contemporary bouffons

The Bouffon of today, who are they? This was a question that came up last week, they are the homeless, the aids victims, the transvestites, the unemployed, in some countries they are the gay or the outcast prostitute the jew from the ghetto. All people ostracised from society. One thing has to be there for them to be bouffon, the pleasure to blaspheme. A gay who wants to be accepted is not a bouffon, a homeless who wants to work and crawl up of success is no bouffon. No the bouffon are outcast, yes we are outcast, and fuck you God!
The pleasure to mock the great and the good. To parody the bastard. To slay him with humour.

Then we did an exercise in 2 groups where we started as a pack, Philippe had us come forward with Tim doing his parody of an Australian bastard. Philippe got us to stop and then the other members of the group came and took our humps off, unstrapped our arms and removed the rags. There we were a band of outsiders, wearing costume that made us look homeless. I could tell from the faces of my classmates that here was something powerful. He repeated the same exercise with the other group members and we saw that it really was powerful. For me I loved seeing this grotesque image of this group of actors, this bouffon brotherhood, my classmates shift from a twisted otherworldly pack to a band of outsiders of today. Tall, ragged, dirty, boiling with angry humour ready to slay the worlds bastards. Absolutely spellbinding!

So this week we have been exploring the costumes of the bouffon of today, several men in the group have cross dressed to try and find tranvestite bouffon, several girls have gone gay, and others of us have dressed homeless. I experimented a bit with my costume, at the weekend I bought a pair of brown cords a pair of battered brogues, a pair of braces and a string vest, I already had a heavy brown coat from a melodrama module earlier in the year. The whole ensemble has been battered and dirtied by scrubbling it on the walls of the house I'm staying in and the string vest has been kicked around the backgarden, the coat has been hacked at and torn to give it a moth eaten look, and a few spit dribbles of toothpaste have added a bird shit look look giving the whole thing a ragged, lived in appearance. I had a bit of a play with some grease paints too. My thoughts on theatres obsession with naturalism make me think that we actors are missing out on a whole load of fun to be had with make-up and costume. Smearing layers of brown to my face and then shading red across my cheeks to give me a wind chapped life outdoors look with a purple and yellowing bruise below my eye helps to fire up my imagination and stamp the image in the audiences imagination. I was really chuffed when Ed commented that he liked the subtle dried spittle spots of white in the corners of my mouth. You actors who don't experiment with this stuff are missing out on something very..... well..... theatrical.

So yes I love my costume and that is something that being here has helped me learn. That to love ones costume is so important and the little ways it changes and develops, the addition of a slightly different bruise, a new ring or an intriguing photo in the pocket and not because it makes my character more real to me because a character is not and never will be real but rather that it excites me as an actor. It gives me the pleasure to show off my new bruise to the audience, because this audience will see something slightly different than the last one and all this helps me to play with the pleasure of being unrecognisable. It helps me to discover my beauty.
My my my, how enlightened this mad man Gaulier is.
The character is nothing without the actor and the actor has to have pleasure to show his character to the audience, to manipulate him, to tease the audience with this person, a turn of the head creates 1 brushstroke, a sigh a second stroke, a laugh a third. I do not come on to be my character safe in the knowledge that i know who he is. It is always a constant discovery between myself and the audience and that is a most beautiful thing. A most theatrical thing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bouffon across ze channel

Been a few days since the last blog.
I was originally going to try and blog almost every day but it has become obvious to me that this is not a good idea. Firstly it puts undue pressure on me to have lots of interesting things to say and secondly I think my learning is deeper when I allow myself to absorb Philippe's teaching by just being there in class, watching, listening and experimenting in the space rather than frantically scribbling notes trying to grasp at an understanding. I think this was what he was getting at when he told me to stop writing during the clown module. It means my focus is elsewhere and not in the moment.

I do have something that I think is worth saying at the moment though.

I was in London last weekend.
On a trip.
2 of our classmates were performing at Sandra's Sunday Dinner Club in Bethnal Green.
It was a really strange moment to see my classmates up there with crippled bodies, dirty faces and blackened teeth. We see it everyday in class but here are a room of strangers, yes some support from 5 or 6 Gaulie-ites but thats it in a room of 50-odd.
Out comes Mia holding a London map in her "good" arm and muttering about "De Beyeg Clok. De Beyeg Ben" and then Ling appears with a plastic bag and an umbrella. I'm not going to tell you what happened in the performance, there was certainly a lot of laughter and the piece needs work but Ling and Mia seem to play well together.
For the purpose of this blog I'm more interested in th audiences reaction. As far as I could gauge, it was a mixture of confusion, joy and "what the fuck is this".
It was definitely challenging and some of the laughs were out of confusion but if you could take these 2 actors who play beautifully together, and if they can really find the spirit of the outcast and downtrodden and have something to say, and they say it in a beautiful way then wow, this could be really powerful stuff. Magical stuff. Otherworldly stuff. Stuff that can only be conceived in the games of players, born on stage, to live in the imaginations of the audience and that for me is where this work is moving towards. Tentative steps out of school. A shuffle becomes a limp, becomes a dance. A grunt that turns into a song. An inspired idea becomes art.

These beautiful outcasts from another time, from another world, a higher, more beautiful world come to deliver messages to the audiences of now.

And how can they fail to be beautiful for as Philippe says Galileo is a friend of the bouffon, Mozart, Da Vinci, the scientists and artists deemed heretical or unnatural are the bouffons allies.
In the maestro's words, "Ze Bouffon he 'as ze beauty of ze devil."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Did I tell you your voice was orreeble?

This is a bit of a re-cap of sorts today.
Anyone who is a regular reader.
Regular reader? Ha, doesn't that sound grandiose?
(Hmmm nyes regular readers of my column will note that I  am slowly... almost un-noticably....mmmm...nyes... one might, indeed, say, imperceptibly. Nyes most definitely the word... imperceptibly hmm....nyes slowly, indeed, imperceptibly disappearing up my own arse.)

But those of you that are regulars will note earlier blogs about fun and the actors need to find this in everything they do on stage.

Every so often something happens in class that sends a Ding of clarity echoing round this puzzled cranium of mine and today was one of those moments.

The exercise was simple enough: to parody a soap opera
3 or 4 bouffon to do this. There were several successes today. And in general people had fun.

For me my voice has long been something that I have struggled with. Not that I have a bad voice. There is no medical condition that prevents me from speaking and apart from a little sybilance (I think thats how you spell it) there is nothing particularly strange or unpleasant about it.
However, for some reason, on stage, I am at war with it. It grates on me when I am on stage, when I use my own voice and my own cadences and rhythms, consequently I feel dull and boring and as a result become dull and boring. I am sure there is some psychological reason why this is. Sigmund and I blame Mr. Mercer for kicking me out of the school choir at 12 and thus this dramatic event caused me to become self-conscious about one of my main acting instruments, the bastard!

Anywaythe fun that I need seems to evade me vocally, now Philippe has several exercises to try and help the actor discover their fun with the voice and I have done these and found things but the real lesson has never truly struck me till today.

The parodyof the soap opera..... 4 Ross beefs get up to have a bash at parodying Eastenders.
We stand backstage waiting for the drum to kick us off.
I think of my best cockney.

I am on...
I tell yer. I've 'ad enough. Enough I tell yer. Oh. right up to ear I've ad it.
Charles joins me on stage
Whassamatter. wha'iz it?

Hardly Shakespeare I know, but about on a par with some soap writing
Boom goes the drum, signalling the end of this attempt.

Your voice is too realistic for zis exercise.

And at that the sparks explode behind my eyes.

Hallelujah. The revelation I've been waiting for.

I was trying to do my best cockney. A good cockney. Not once did I focus on the fun.
Yes I may have fun to be in the space. I may have fun to play with my partners. Fun to move. Fun to dance but unless I have fun to speak I will never find true freedom on stage.
My focus on being a good actor will always hold me back.
My work will never truly live in the imaginations of the audience because my realistic voice will keep me anchored and prevent me from soaring.
So now this is part of my work.
I either become a mime or else allow laughter, jokes, games and joy to flow from my voice.
To have vocal fun this is my challenge and my work.

Lets see what colours I can find there.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Searching for a bastard

Blogger seems to have changed the layout, so if the last blog was a little difficult to read, lacking paragraphs and spaces, apologies. I do understand grammatical conventions, not perfectly, but well enough not to simply write a block of text. Will try and rectify the situation from now on.

Right then, as the title suggests I'm currently on the hunt for bastards.
Definition of a bastard: Someone who would write to the gestapo to say, excuse me Monsieur Gestapo (they are very respectful and use capital letters and everything) but my neighbour has a big nose and I think he may be a you know what.
Nothing like a war and the persecution of a people to bring out the bastard
Apparently there is a library somewhere in Paris where the letters of these shining examples of humanity are stored. A sort of shrine to the bastard! The evidence of thousands of bastards.

And it is these bastards that are cannon fodder for the bouffons artillery; parody, satire and savage humour slay the bastards dead and show them for the pathetic wastes that they really are.

And so part of our training is learning how to fight.

The bouffon spirit, the spirit of the downtrodden and the outcast rising up to say fuck you to the powers that be, fuck you to the racists, the sexists and the homophobes, to those that would order the creation of the ghetto's and those that would follow orders by rounding the outcast up to fill them.
A middle finger to the hypocrisy that exists in the walls of power, to churches that hide paedophiles and encourage homophobia, that claim abortion is sin and do so in the name of the lord. A flick of the V sign to royalty that claims a holier than thou image while vice and murder live and breathe in its recent past and to governments that claim to look after the people while really defending the interests of a tiny few.

 A cry of fuck you to dictators that order the forced sterilisation of its poor and so many many other corrupt and immoral acts committed against the vulnerable. The bouffon, the ugly outcast with license to openly decry these and other terrible acts. To show the bastards who they really are. To really laugh at them . The power of laughter can be so effective in the spirit of the bouffon, to parody a nazi, a racist or a god loving paedophile, to show him in the midst of his hate and then to laugh. The laugh of the oppressed the laughter of the bouffon. To curse religion and blaspheme because they are "the children of the devil" who have the laughter of the devil never far from them and so potent it is to remind at reminding the great and the good who they really are and what they are capable of... the bastards!

To help us develop this spirit Philippe wants us to find a bastard, one from our lives, a bastard that we know and one that we can have fun to assassinate. A teacher, a boss, a school bully but a bastard that the bouffon will take pleasure in parodying.
Oh what joy to show the bastards sex life, to play with him taking a shit to maneouvre him into situations with the purpose of making him look as ridiculous as possible.
Once people see bastards as ridiculous they begin to lose their power.
It is harder to fear someone you view as riduculous and that you laugh at.

The problem that I and other members of the group have with bastards is that if they really are a bastard we try to get away from them as soon as possible. I want nothing to do with them. These bastards.

And so my search continues tracing back through my life, still none come to mind, I think I'm going to have to amalgamate a series of moments of bastardness into 1 uber bastard. When I find him I shall let you know, until then, wish me Happy Hunting.