Monday, October 31, 2011

To tell or not to tell that is the question

21:41 on Monday evening, eating pate and crusty bread for dinner listening to jazz on the radio, could i get much more french?
Did I mention I,m wearing a beret, a breton jumper and smoking Gauloises?
There is a slight stiffness in my neck from movement class, today we played with prat falls over the back of a chair, we began first with backward rolls ending with us slapping our hands on the floor to create the all important slamming sound and sell the fall theatrically, okay stage & complete but when it came to the chair my first attempt saw me crashing backwards and staying sat in the chair with the back of the chair on the floor, erm this isn't what Claude showed us, bugger.
Attempt number 2 I do manage to roll back but also simultaneously wind myself in the process, merde, I want to get this but Claude has called next and I'm left to contemplate rolling over my shoulder rather than going flat on the back.
A little later Marie slams the back of her head into the mat and Claude changes the exercise, she is dizzy and it hurts when she moves her neck, she is the youngest in the class and my big brother instinct kicks in, we take her out of class and downstairs, everybody has a different idea about what she should do, eventually we call an ambulance, all the while she is apologising for taking people out of class, she's so very English. I would like to do a longer slapstick course at some point, I think it could be valuable for myself as a performer but also for future students, I think that other people would be interested in this as a workshop, I am, but why do I never hear of people running them in the U.K.?

Not too much to tell about class today, I think I need to process what happened before i splurge it here, hopefully when I do I'll have good stuff to say.
A demain

Friday, October 28, 2011

Good idea, bad execution

Okay, just a quick one tonight.
After last Fridays praise Dan and I tried auditioning the number to present it tomorrow night at the opening party for the school.
Erm... we're a long way off.
A very long way off.
Like he said before the idea was good but it needs lots of work.
Some brief hints from el monsieur, the relationship is not strong enough.
If Dan is the tall idiot then I need to be the brains behind the operation, I want thge number to be a brilliant illusion for the audience and when dan funks it up I have to get annoyed at him whilst pretending that everything is going to plan as far as the audience are concerned.
Complicity, we didn't spend any seconds trying to contact each other to see how we could play together this time so the number was just choreography and lacked life.
Dah! You mean we have to live on stage, really live, bah, I wish someone had told me that years ago.
Needless to say we were not selected, not professional enough!

I tried a speech from Richard III in class too, first up Boring, but Philippe asked Michiko to dirty me up, she came over slapped me a few times, bound my arms, my head, made me kneel down and she put a skirt on me. Philippe got me to spit and smile, laugh like an upperclass twit with a metallic voice and hey presto, our first glimpse of bouffon.

I hope i can get funding to come back later in the year, it will be fun that one.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First things first, I've just found out Tom Waits new album Bad like me is out so if any readers want to get me a late birthday/ early christmas present then it doesn't take much imagination to guess what I would like.
If you don't yet know how good this man is listen to the glitter and doom concert here:

Now with that out the way, back to yesterdays flop, ay ay ay, cest un grande merde, the exercise was to pretend to be the head of B.P.
MOnsieur Marcel, the clown expert had said " Well my little one, if you want to play the head of B.P. it is not a piece of cake. Buty the head of B.P. he receives a lot of fax." and with this and our fantasy we had to enter the space to play him.

I entered the stage with a suitcase, looked at the audience, though I didn't really see them, breathed in, took a pretentious posture and exclaimed " I am the head of B.P.!"

"A fax."


"I have a briefcase full of faxes." I put the case on the floor, it fell over.
Little snigger from a generous classmate.

I picked the case up.

My brain is frantically scrabbling around for something, anything give me an idea please.

I look down at my bare chest, "I have forgotten my tie."

From the shaded auditoreum behing the round drum comes monsieurs voice, "My God. So funny. Hilarious, please stop him before I pee my trouser."

And in swoops the angel of death.

I take a breath in and make a big breath out.

"Ah ya," says Atilla the Clown from behind his drum shield, "That sound. Do it again."

I breathe out again.

"Ya, this is the sound of what you are doing." He imitates the sound of tumbleweed in the dust.
Don't I know it.
He turns to a classmate, " My god this is awful, no."
This is Philippes way of giving us an opportunity to do something to save the show, so far there have been some funny moments from the class at this point but not me, my fun is nowhere and as a consequence my clown has said "Fuck you" and gone away, leaving only half naked Mark in the space to crumble.
Wow, and what a big fall it was.
I look at Stephen, "It's really hard this isn't it?"
He empathises, "Yeah it is."
I have nothing now.
I cry out.
From the floor I hear a pitying "aww", I want to punch everyone of them, I want your laughs not your sympathy. I can't remember when I last felt this vulnerable, its not a comfortable feeling.
Philippe says something else and lifts the fear inducing drumstick.
"Waaiiiit, it was a stupid idea to use the suitcase as abriefcase. The tie thing was rubbish, I mean look at me."
A small laugh from the floor, my clown winks at me and then disappears into the ether.
Philippe asks Duncan to give me a fax, he comes over miming a piece of paper, I look at him and say there is nothing there.
Another big flop.
Philippe asks me to read what is on it.
I look up and open my mouth.
"Breeeeathe" I make the tumbleweed sound.
Another mighty flop.
"Non, it does not say that"
I've lost the will to live.
"Oh no, it says leeeeave."
"Yeees" from monsieur G.
I go.

Later in class after a flop from Andres Philippe turns to me and says "you were bad in the same way as him. Do you want me to show you what I mean?"
He gats us both on stage, the two mighty floppers together at last.
I'm broken, he gets us both to say "I am the head of B.P. with this feeling.
We do.
There is some kind of response from the floor.
Completely unexpected.
Apparently what we did the first time was conventional.
We did what any ordinary person would do if they tried to play the boss of a large company, puff the chest out, raise the head, walk forward in a confident manner, as I write it now these are all such cliches and he was right to bang us off.
The clown is a special soul and he has a special way of doing things.
When will I be able to put this into practice?

And so on to today.

Le Jeu
working with the chorus.
1 male 1 female, Philippe played a song for each chorus, to give them a rhythm. I think the point here is that on stage as actors we have to be aware of the rhythm of the other actors and play in contrast to them, he explained later with another exercise that if the text is one thing then we have to find ways to contrast it, for example, a scene at a funeral if we then play the scene in the conventional rhythm we are basically saying the same thing twice and this is boring and predicatable for the audience. I'm still trying to understand what Philippe's approach to theatre is, in my head it is beautiful, playful, fun and funny, it is a gift to the audience, it lifts them out of their day to day monotany and transports them to imaginary worlds filled with light and surprises.
Sounds good eh?
It doesn't preach, doesn't pretend to hold the anwsers, no, rather it is a trip into the rich unknown.
I want to make this, don't you?
Lets go together, to places untravelled, come with us and together we will discover something.
Now all we need are the stories to do this.
Come on Thalia help me find my funny fantasies on stage with the audience.

But funny when I leave the stage and get slightly sexual.
Go figure.
A demain.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To say that it was a flop would be like saying Hiroshima was a little firework, it was a total catastroff!



No pleasure, no fun, coming on like a fascist, no laughs, totally vulnerable in the space but also totally unusable on stage.
Today was the biggest flop yet, I'm freefalling waiting to hit the bottom and hoping that it is a trampoline.

Conclusion from today: I'm not funny.


Perhaps, tomorrow I will be.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My partner is a genius

There is a party on Saturday to celebrate the official opening of the new school in Etampes and the 31st anniversary of the ecole Philippe Gaulier, when we arrived builders were at work finishing off laying the edges of the flooring which meant that we had to wait a few minutes before starting class.
Monsieur Gaulier stopped me on the stairs, "Ah your T-shirt it is beautiful." I'm wearing my red one today. "Merci Monsieur." I can't tell if he's joking or not, I think not but either way it makes me smile.
In movement we worked on acrobalance work, basing this on top of the normal warm-up and I start to feel a niggle in the knee and decide to take myself out of class. I nip back hope to get an icepack and go back to class, sat in the silk which doubled as a kind of seat/hammock I watch my classmates flying each other and am really impressed particularly with Kian, he has obviously done this work before but is very generous acting as base for almost everyone in class, he is gentle but firm and with his help everyone I watched him work with managed to succeed in the acro. He's actually quite soft for a tough young Irishman.

Class finishes and the builders are still at work downstairs so both groups have to work together togather for the day.
We spent the day auditioning for potential acts to present a cabaret style show at the school on Saturday night.
Smart dress is a must, apparently Michiko is planning to award prizes for the best dressed. On a tight budget I doubt I'll be visiting any boutique shops this week. It will be shirt and jeans for me, I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes in though.
Dan and I tried out our piece from Friday but this time switching roles, Dan's idea, Monsieur Gaulier has said jokingly that Dan has bad ideas and this was one. It didn't have the same feel as last time. Dan is a bigger idiot than me and we didn't have anything like the same reaction as last time. But Dan was right we had to try to see what it was going to be like.
Philippe said that we have to come up with an ending for the piece, he has given us an idea and now we just need to try and work it in.

There was lots to learn today particularly about the relationsheep (Baa-haa) between 2 clowns.

The exercise; to pretend that you know a show by a famous french author titled "The dead body in the starights of Gibralter" (?).
Monsieur Gaulier: "If you are sitting there and you think ooh-la-la I can't do that I don't know anything about that play then you are not clown. The clown thinks, it is not a piece of cake but I will try."

It is not a piece of cake but I will try and therein lies a big part of the clown, non?

When Philippe gets us to enter in a duo so often we rush into trying to come up with something that we neglect to make contact with our partner, our friend who will save us if we "start peddaling in ze sauerkraut" I think we brits would say when you find yourself "swimming in the shit". But you get the picture, the lesson here was that if I am flopping like mad I pass the game to my friend and he will save the show. On stage you have to trust your friend not only that but you have to find the conflict between you and your friend, I think that this was maybe why our auditioning of Fridays number didn't work so well, there was no conflict between Dan and myself this second time. Where is the game of the conflict? where is the game with the audience? where is the complicity?
How am i going to play with this person tonight? How am I going to play with this audience tonight? What will I do to get myself out of the flop?
Holy Sheep! There is a lot to this clown malarky!

Todays blog title comes from a little later in the session.
I had been sitting in the audience slightly scared to get up, actually that is not true, I was petrified today, how can this ageing man, his drum and a room full of near strangers strike such fear into ones heart and soul?
Maybe I'm starting to care more.
I hope so, but back to the point.
My partner is genius.
As I say I was sat there feeling the grip of fear around me wanting to get up and make people laugh but frightened that they would not, I heard a raucous laugh behind me and turned to catch Vicky's eye, Vicky is a 20-something greek/swiss girl, Philippe says she has something of the monster about her, she does, she is also great fun and has a light in her eyes that makes me think she will work a lot once she leaves but what do I know, anyway the genius that I wanted to be on stage with was her.
Next time an opportunity came we were up. As we walked to stage we caught each others eye, I think I can play with you but we'll see was what we both thought, I think.
We run on stage, I'm not feeling confident at all.
And round again.
And again.
A few smiles.
Music stops.
So do we.
We look at each other.
Out to the audience.
Back to each other.
Do something I think.
I get the same look back from Vicky.
I turn to the audience and shout Jacques Vidrel (The authors name)
Vicky looks at me.
Thankyou my friend, you are a genius.
"Jaaaaaaaaacques, don't go."
"Jaaaaacques, wait for me.!"
Then a sort of scene starts between us.
"Jaaaaacques where are you?"
"I'm waiting for you."
"But where are you?"
"I'm in Gibralter."

Boom of monsieurs drum.

Bon, so she had an idea you need to look at her.
He gets us to go from Vicky shouting again and says that I should look outatthe audience, that the conflict between us could come from her trying to do a scene but I am thinking "Woooooow! Look at her, go isn't she brilliant? My friend is a genius. Watch her. Go on do it again."
Writing this now it all seems very simple but in the heat of the moment it is so hard.
The curious thing is than when it clicks it will be like surfer riding a perfect wave, I guess you have to be thrown against the coral first or turn up on days when the sea is as flat as an ironed pancake.

I've had enough of coral and the pancake sea, I want to surf now.
Lets see what the waves are like tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Lion Sandwich or how Philippe Gaulier touched a deep nerve

Feeling a little deflated after clown class.
Nothing unusual happened in todays exercise.
The normal mix of bad, average and the funny orientals. Oh to be non-European and sound funny whenever you open your mouth to speak English.
Is that racist?
Maybe, but in class it is certainly true; Yurichi and Kosei seem to get laughs almost everytime they speak.
Me the odd titter here another there but none of the belly laughs that happened on Friday.
Okay so on analysis, Friday we had a structure to hold on to but today, and most days in the space with nothing; I flop.
Very frustrating.

So, the exercise, 5 people enter the space to music, circle the space, music stops and then we had to introduce the celebr..celebr..celebrat the first y..y..y.year of the..ecol.ll.l..l.le....Phil..l...l..lipe..gau...gau.gau..lier!
You got it?
Me, I don't fink it could be more clearer."
This is more or less how Philippe explains the game to us.

I get up to be one of the first 5.
Enter onstage.
Walk round.
Music stops.
Philippe points down the line 1,2,3,4,5.
I'm no 4.
my friends start.
Boom goes the drum.
Before I know its me.
I walk a bit forward. to
Nothing not a peep.
Where is this thing called clown?

Later in class we get to have another go.
Same again.
No laughs.
Same for most people in class today.

later still I have 1 more go, I think about pleasure, about trying to contact the audience, abouttrying to have fun, about not being too confident about being bad and...........
silence from the audience.
Philippe turns to Steve.
"If he leaves the stage Steve, you are happy?"

"Noooo Steve, Noooo!" I shout

Steve turns to Philippe

"Yes. I am happy if he leaves the stage."

I start to take myself back. This has previously got a laugh.


"Normally when I leave they laugh." I whine "Philippe I'm getting worse."

I rejoin the line, Ammo looks at me as if to say are you okay, I give him a wink and he winks back.
We watch as Claude flops.

End of class

Philippe answers a question from Steve, I'm backstage getting changed wondering why nothing is working.

Steve: "Does the clown like the flop?"

PG: "Non, he does not like the flop, no clown likes to flop but the clown, he loves to save the show. The great clowns they write the flop into the show, you take Charlie Rivel, he would flop and then everytime he would save the show with his Owwwwowwwowwwww!"

We have to learn to flop and then save the show, not flop and keep on going. Flop AND THEN SAVE THE SHOW.

I spoke to Philippe after class. I asked him.
"Philippe do you think the flop kills me?"

"Non, its your smile. When you smile we think you don't really care to save the show."

"Ah so I need to eat a lion sandwich?" (Philippes advice for actors who are too timid or who don't give enough)

"Yes. If you smile we don't care because you don't. We don't think you will do anything to make us laugh"

"So it's a question of attitude? I have to take it more seriously?"

"Yes. You, you look at the girl who cried, it was because she was desperate. She wanted to make us laugh that she cries. You have fun, but it is serious." His eyes tell me that he is deadly serious when he says this. I need to start taking it more seriously. It has to matter moreto me. Much much more.

I say thank you Monsier. and start to write in my notebook.

"It has to matter. If you want to get paid to do this it's the secret, it really has to matter."

This last generous sentence struck me in a way like nothing else he has said so far.
It is a question of attitude.
Of taking the fun seriously.
Of it really mattering whether the audience laugh or not.
Maybe this small truth revealed under the spotlights of a small school in Etampes has opened up the reason why I have only played fringe works these last years.
Does it really matter enough to me?
That is the question that I want answering here, over these next 8 weeks.
Does it matter to me?
Really matter?
I know I can do it, I've done it before.
I need to eat lions and bears every day before class to give me the strength and courage to do anything.
Anything for their laughs.
Anything to save the show!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'll put a spell on you.

As sunday afternoon blends into evening I reflect on Friday.
A succesful day for me, in terms of finding pleasure in the space.
It was cabaret day on Friday and we were all asked to bring in smart clothes.
So clean shaven I put on the hat, shirt and tie I borrowed from Francois.
I thought I looked ok but Monsieur Gaulier said I looked like a fisherman going to get married.

Great! Exactly the look I was going for.

We re-arranged the chairs in the space into seating for the show. Philippe said that we would need a compere for the show. Julia's hand shoots up "I'd like to nominate Mark".
Philippe "You want?"
"Yes, okay, yes, sure I'd like to host." normally have run from this idea but I'm beginning to feel more comfortable out there with little or no idea so yes, come on, lets see what happens.

He explained that as it was a cabaret he wouldn't be giving any zero's today that instead he would ask for drinks, if we were good he would ask for champagne if we were quite good - whisky, average - vodka, bad - coke and the worst - diet coke.
He asked for 5 people to go behind the screen and we start.
First entrance: I rush on too whooping and cheering from my classmates "Welcome to the cabaret Ecole Philippe Gaulier Yeah!"
"YeeeeeEEEEAAAAHH" from the audience
And from behind them......"Boom boom boom!"
"Non. This is not a high class cabaret this is like in a pub in Kentish Town. Non this is a high class cabaret. You have to have class."

I leave the stage and enter again, this time slower, taking my time to establish myself with the audience, not pushing. What good is sitting alone in your room come hear the music play, life is a cabaret old chum come to the cabaret.....Madame est Monsieur Ladies and Gentleman, Bienvenue and welcome to the cabaret ecole Philippe Gaulier . And now for our first act, all the way from sweden via Texas would you please welcome Gawayne and Dan."

And we were off.

I was pretty happy with the comparing stints I got to be up there for 2 more rounds and the 3rd time Philippe said that I need to change to be a bit more sado-maso. I think he was trying to get me away from the nice guy image that i was showing on stage, I enjoyed that a lot, especially when I caught Hannah yawning on the front row and I turned on her saying "I'm sorry are you bored?" the sound of intakes of breath from my colleagues.
It was wonderful to sit down and see Philippe work with people. To George he got him to sing a greek song first on his own, then with Vera and Suzee holding his hands. George is great with 2 good looking women at his side.

Julia from New Zealand came on to sing little red corvette. When she first appears stage right wearing a long classy dress she looks very sexy. She looks at us, walks forward and starts to sing.
Philippe stops her.
"Why do you come on so quickly? You enter again and tek your time."
She does.
"Now you look at Mark and you sing just for im."
She does.
She is beautiful.
She sings to everyone and leaves very slowly.

The difference before and after Philippe works with students is really noticable, they shine brighter, become more beautiful on stage, then it is down to us to process what he has done let it settle so we can use it next time we are up.

I learned a lot watching Philippe work with Julia.
Later on, stood back stage waiting to go on to sing "Can't take my eyes off you" I told myself not to rush.
There was a black coat backstage, too small to fit me but I thought if I slung it over my shoulder, it might make me look less of a fisherman. For the last 8 years or so I've had a man crush on Tom Waits, I imagine that the addition of thecoat makes me look like Tom in his earlier years, less jazz beard, piano and cigarettes.
Danno comes over to me, "I'm thinking about saying something about your manly chest what do you think?"
I didn't get it.
"Huh yeah sure."
"okay, cool!"
Danno is the 3rd compare of the day His first line for Yazid was he's from Singapore but he doesn't sing poorly would you please put your hands together for Yazid and so it went on pun after pun and now its my turn.
This guy is famous worldwide for his manly chester would you please welcome Mark from Manchester."
Laughs and groans from the audience.
Okay do or die.
I slink round the curtain and walk slowly forward till I am fully in the light.
Don't rush.
I look out at the audience.
Don't rush.
I can see expectation in their faces.
I make eye contact with Carolyn.
Hold it.
"You're just too good to be true. Can't take my eyes off you. You feel like heaven to touch, I wanna hold you so much, at long last love has arrived, and I thank God I'm alive..." She looks down a bit embarressed, I keep focussed on her, she looks back up. "You're just too good, to be true, can't take my eyes off you."
Hold the eye contact for another second. Scan the room. Take in everyone. I look for another pair of eyes to have a moment with and zone in on Vera.

"Pardon the way, that I stare, there's nothing else to compare," Vera is laughing her hands covering her mouth. "The sight of you makes me new, there are no words left to say." I glance back at Carolyn, I don't know if I imagined it or not but there seems to be a frustrated look in her eye, as if I have just used her, jealous almost.
Back to Vera
"And if you feel like I feel please let me know that, it's real. You're just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off you." Vera has stopped laughing but looks totally engaged.
Another look around the room.
Open my mouth as if about to sing.
Back to Carolyn.
No sound.
Then back to Vera.
"I love you baby..." (laugh from the audience) "...and if its quite alright I need you baby to warm my lonely nghts, I love you baby, trust in me when I see."
For the room now "Oh pretty baby don't bring me down I pray oh pretty baby now that I'm bound to stay and let me love you baby let me love you."

Boom! From Monsieurs drum.

I leave to applause.


I'm normally terrified of singing but that felt good.

Really good. There is a huge difference when you connect with the audience and when you do something alone. The former being the way forward.


So Friday morning Dan and I arrive at college at about 11 to run through what we've been working on.
Yann is there and he and he and Amy watch what we've got.
Basically we have a crap magic act with 2 chairs.
Yann doesn't laugh once, uh-oh bad sign, if Yann doesn't laugh then Philippe is going to eat us on toast for breakfast.
Dan asks Yann for feedback, he points out that the relationship between us isn't there, that there is a bit at the beginning which needs cutting and we repeat the same gag with the chairs twice and it isn't funny the first time.
ACtually, the oppositte of Merde, we've roadtested and it didn't work. Great but now what?
Yann offers us a lot of suggestions, cut the beginnning, its not funny. Try something else with the chairs, which we do, a levitation with the chair act, seems to work, he adds a really cheeky idea too. The gag is that I'm on top of a set of ladders behind the curtain. I pretend to be a magician and levetate a chair, which rises up above the curtain (Dan is holding the chair) I pretend to magic the chair along the top of the curtain away from me, but Dan the idiot of the pair is holding the chair by the far legs so as he walks back with the chair he ends up backing onto stage. The audience see him holding the chair, at which point he lets go of the chair and goes on stage to be with them, when he does this Yann, who was behind the curtain takes hold of the chair and from the audience it looks like the chair is actually levitating. Yann you are a genius.
Dan comes back to the chair and we play a bit more, he sets the chair down, etc
So, armed with our new version for class we sit down.
Dan is adament that we are not getting up first.
Steve and Duncan do.
Philippe kills them.
Oh shit! We're gonna die.
"Anyone want to go? Anybody"
Come on lets do it. We rise slowly out of our chairs.
"We'll go Philippe".
"Bon, you want music?"
"actually we've got our own" I give him my i-pod to plug in and go back stage.
I didn't see Yann get up and I don't think many others did either.
Music starts.
The ladders clatter against the shelving backstage. A little laugh.
I climb them, get to the top, lose my balance and nearly fall off. Laugh.
I pretend to roll up my sleeves, concentrate and do some magic hand acting.
The chair comes up.
Big Laugh.
I start to wave my hands and Dan moves the chair back. Hewalks backwards onto stage.
Big laugh.
He lets go of the chair and walks out front, Yann has the chair.
Laugh and slight gasps of how are they doing that.
Dan goes back to the chair and starts to take it on stage.
I'm getting frustrated at him messing the trick up but trying not to let on to the audience that he is making mistakes, Dan who isobviously the bigger idiot of the 2 of us is just loving being out there.
I try and get him to take the chair back to the other side of the stage whilst stil playing the magician.
Philippe stops the music.

"Me. I like it."

Huge swell of emotion.

"But you have a problem. You need a brilliant idea to get him (pointing at me) onto stage."

Dan pipes up.
"Well I think we can solve that."

"You think so?"

"Yeah we got something and I think you might like it."

You've got to admire Dan's balls.

"So we go back to the beginning and we start again."

We do.
they laugh in the right places again, only this second time I feel more alive, the voice is coming out more and more.

When it gets to the same point. We put the chair down.
Dan looks at me and makes magic fingers, I make that I have just had a spell put on me and go down the ladder. In front of the curtain Dn does similar movements to what I had been doing as if he is moving me along behind the curtain ready to be magicked on stage right.
He walks off behind stage to see what has happened.
I walk on stage left look for him and walk off. (Classic gag)
Dan walks back on stage then off again.
Philippe stops the music.
We walk back on stage

"La, it is a good idea. Yes this could be the beginning of a number."

High praise indeed.

What will next week bring?

Got to keep on discovering more.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Zis is a good idea, I like it.

Having read the title of tonights blog and bearing in mind the quote was from monsieur Gaulier about a piece that Dan, Yann est moi came up with,(particular thanks have to go to Yann whose last minute direction prevented the slaughter of Dan and I).
I guess you can understand how buzzing.
If you know Philippe then just read it again and you should have some idea of how I am feeling.
So good that I'm having a few drinks and will tell all tomorrow.

Wow! What a day.

A Matin.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Just a quick one tonight folks, it's getting late and I still have a lot of sewing to do.
Thanks to the wonderful Carman I think that the home made Obelix costume now looks likely to be finished within a week.

Okay so todays learning.

The pleasure to speak, to play with the echo in a cave, I've read about this exercise but never quite understood it and as with most things about Monsieur G, you have to be with him to experience the magic.
A chorus of 7 play the echobehind an actor who tries to have fun with the voice to give an impulse so that the echo can play.
Flat sounds, words without inflection and short vowels left nothing hanging in the air to be played with. Not surprising when the echo gives up or shuts up.
Aaron surprised today with his Braveheart burst of "FreeeeeeeedoooooooooOOOOOOOM!" The nymphs of echo for the first time in the session suddenly had something to play with and they did. Enjoying the impulse of the game between them and he.
Lovely to see.

I got up sang, played and had a lot of pleasure to play in this one, I seem to be of the mindset at the moment in le jeu that at some point I am going to fail so best try and have as good a time as I can whilst I'm up there.

A big flop today, the game was simple.
7 people in the space with a ball. Monsieur Gaulier plays music and the clowns dance. 2 of them have a moment of complicity between each other the ball is thrown from one to the other. The person who receives the ball looks at the audience and has to do something to save the show.
As normal some good stuff and some bad, non not bad just boring.
Me, today I fall into the second category.
I got the ball, I felt the pleasure rise and I started to take in the audience and then either fear or lack of ideas started me spiralling down and down.
Nothing came, its funny because I can feel the audience waiting for something to happen butr they won't for ever and Monsieur G certainly won't.
The inevitable banging of the drum.
I turned and waited for his comments.

Not a saucisson.

Its a bit like having a parent tell you they are disappointed.

Left me with stuff to think about though.
What is it that stops me from entering the moment, from embracing the unknown, leaves me stuck in the space without my imagination or creativity?

I don't know.

An artistic crisis maybe.

Non, it is not a crisis, there are too many of them in the world today, this is a blip, it will pass, and when it does I will shine.

Watch me.

Just remember to bring your sunglasses.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The love drug

Wednesday evening 9:15.
Phew I made it.
Twas a bit of a struggle at points.
Why Mark, why?
Good question!
With a one word answer.


After class several of us went to the Halequin bar to have a drink and relax, now don't ask me how but several hours Dan and myself found ourselves in an impromptu lock in. Our french host drinking pastisse and Dan and myself on the vin rouge.
I still managed to get about 9 hours sleep but drunken slumber never quite recharges the batteries.
I'm 33 surely you would think I would have learned that lesson by now?
Obviously not.

And so today was a tad touch and go but I made it.

Movement was really interesting for me today. A little insight into how games can be used to stretch the actors range and develop his physicality.

No stretches or silk work today, non, today we played.

Beginning with Cat and mouse/hug tag to get the heart rate up, there was such a charged energy in the room especially when Claude introduced 2 and then 3 cats. It was hilarious.
Next-dodge ball we were encouraged to use our whole body in the throw and to really try and dodge the ball, when it matters the body does many strange and wonderful contortions, then the beginning of the session that really got me thinking about game as an addition to movement training. Claude had us walking round the space, he would tap someone, that person would do an action with a sound and we would all have to copy after a while this changed to animals, suddenly we are up pretending to be ostriches, down for sheep dog and cats, even lower still for snakes, leaping on someone else's back to play a giraffe, rhythm changes to pass from sloth to orangutan and more.The body warming up and developing without the serious nature often associated with "movement". This continued on when Claude put a line of blue mats at one end of the room and a second line at the other end. We were to imagine that the room between the mats was ice, so as soon as we walked onto it we slipped over, curious how much of a banging and crashing the frame can take when the body is soft. Immersed in the game we don't think about the possibility of injury or have any fear of throwing ourselves about the space. Once we had all crossed the space, we had to go back again, this time across hot coals. The third time we had to swim across a river filled with piranha. And then try to swing across the same river on the silks, me and 99% of class were pranha feed, only Justin made it across.
Finally we had to sit on a chair that was very slippy and again practice falling to the floor.
Keep the body soft seems to be the secret.
I think that tomorrow we learn how to fall backwards in a chair safely. I'm looking forward to that.

Le Jeu.
Pretending to be in an advert for a fine whisky for the men, Chanel no 5 for the ladies. Among us were actors suitable to advertise bleach, danone yoghurt, perfume in a kibbutz and adverts against drinking.

Sinicca asked what if you are not comfortable playing beautiful, if you prefer playing ugly, Philippe said something like she had fun and she has pleasure on stage that it is not that he thinks she is not beautiful that he kicked her away but that in the exercise her movement was horrible.

He is trying to get us to move beautifully on stage, graceful under the lights ready to show the audience our piece of our soul.


Costume update for those of you who are interested.

Christine gave me a pair of blue and white maternity pyjamas which I am wearing in class. The genius idea of stitching my own has been postponed for a few days, I'm going to speak to Carmen about it tomorrow to see if it is still possible ( apparently she is a costume designer so she will tell me if it is a total catastroff)even if she says no est posible then I'll still give it a go.
I really want them to work.

todays exercise
2 clowns enter to introduce an inaugration (?)
They have been to see Monsieur Marcel who frquents the cafe de la post. Apparently every cafe has a genius, some cafes there is a rugby genius, in others a legal genius, and monsieur marcel is a clown genius.
Ahhh my little one, if you want to do an inaugration it is not easy. not easy at all. An inaugration has poems and song.
Ah thankyou Monsieur Marcel. and with this knowledge the clown goes to make his inaugration.

I tap Mia infront of me to see if she wants to work together, she is dressed as the wife of the chief of the village in Asterix and me as Obelix could be a good couple.
We get up and walk behind the curtain, a quick glance at one another and then Boom boom boom on the drum and on we go, circling round and round as the music plays, it stops. Mia has a rolling pin as a prop and we both start doing something bad with the rolling pin. It gets a couple of laughs but I think these are just from friends who sympathise with us being in the shit. We end up holding hands just as monsieur G bangs his drum and tells us that what we did was bad. We ask for a second attempt, he was feeling generous today and with the feeling of being bad he let us go a second time, we did okay.
Philippe used us to teach about major minor, I made a bit of a boob, I said something like "ladies and gentlemen now Mia will do a back flip. Mia looked confused. great! and here was my mistake, in fact she will do a double backfli..... "Non, you have just given her major, we are with her now."
I clenched my fist and watched Mia. I need to realise when I have handed the game over. This will come I'm sure I need to be more complicit with my partner.

Mia carried on, "Yes I am going to do a backflip but first I need to warm up, Mark will now warm me up."
Brilliant thankyou Mia I'm in major again, what will I do here?
My mind goes to the rolling pin and I think about using it to warm her up, before I know what is happening I am breathing on her as if she is ice cold hands and patting her arms... laugh. Brilliant, I carry on. more laughs, okay we could have a game here.
Philippe stops us.
He asks Mia why she isn't playing pissed off?
She says that she tried it yesterday and it didn't work.
He winds her up in french. She gets pissed off and bites back, suddenly there erupts a lot of laughter from the audience and big laughs from Monsieur.
After a few minutes of exchange between them he tells her that she has to kill the charming swiss that she wants to play, that it is no good for her clown. That they don't love her like that
I liked playing with Mia, I think we could come up with something good, her clown is pissed off whilst mine is an energetic optimistic idiot.
The contrast here could be good.

But what I did learn or at least what I have found before that can be fruitful is to put your partner in the shit, And now Mia will do a backflip. I have given my friend an offer, a gift, something for them to play with.
And here was another lesson for today, the relationship between the clowns is more important than the number.

I think I see that, for in the relationship is the humanity, the number could be anything, sure there are good ideas for numbers but "2 idiots on the stage with complicite, and ahh we think something is coming."

My idiot, (apparently I have an idiot face)I can't quite tap him here yet, but I have been succcesful for a few minutes in previous workshops so I know it is possible, and boy what a feeling that was, to love and be loved by the audience, it's in my veins and I want it more.
The love drug.
Help me to find it again Monsieur G.

Monsieur Gaulier's quote of the day.
"When you enter as clown you have to think how am I going to work with this audience? How am I going to make them laugh?"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The key?

Yesterdays bread lapped up with todays evening meal of melting pork in gravy with lentils and mmmmmm!
Zut alors! this tastes good!
Thlurp tmm tmm tchm, is the only sound in the room as I suck the marrow from out the bones.
A slug of white wine and I reflect once again on how lucky I am.

I have fantastic family, those at home whose support brought me here, and those here in my adopted country who supply me with food, french and new trousers.

I am working with a theatre legend; El Monsieur Professor whose school I have wanted to attend for the last 4 years. (Ben Cutler I don't know if I ever told you but I owe you for turning me onto monsieur G at your lab all those years ago.)


I'm loved!

Est voila.

Surely that is enough.

Or is it?

Maybe for some.

But apparently not for me.

Selfish as it sounds I need more.

I need the love of the audience and so far I have not got it.

Clown class; It's good in a way that my classmates see me as a partial stranger.
To get too comfortable with one another only leads to nepotistic laughter and in jokes.
But the unknown public await, an unproven audience, together there only for one night, in one place, paying their money earned by sweat and graft, who wish to be lifted somewhere new, carried to an imaginary world where beauty rules supreme.


Please my little boatman cradle me onward.

Bid me view places unseen, to drift on the tide of fantasy, and peek through the cracks of your mind to view the spectres of dreams.



I need their love.
And so do all here who crave longevity in this business.
To be loved is to last.

And so, without this love yet I strive again for more.
More laughs.
More laughs.
More laughs.

The key to longevity?

Help me monsieur.

I want to succeed.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mummy? Daddy? look at me.

I wake at 9 but hit snooze and eventually rise at 10.
My knee which has been playing up since Friday is easing a bit but I decide that I won't take part in movement class today in case I agrevate it again.
The morning is spent creating the helmet and moustache for my costume.
There is no way I can be ready with that in time so after chatting with Al about it and her reminding me of a sort of similar problem I had in a previous workshop I decide the best thing to do is to take the hat, moustache belt and a plastic bag full of bits of cloth to class, I have no idea if it will be funny, in my head it kind of is.

Movement, I was late, I had to get the hat right, its bnasically the one piece of costume I have so it had better be good.
I creep in and watch my classmates on the silks, some of them are really good. I'm a bit gutted that my knee isn't working properly, I would limke to see if I've improved at all.
But then I don't think I'll be getting on the silks for at least another week, it would be stupid to do myself a real injury.

Le Jeu
Samuel says
Exercises in dancing
Wink murder to help us to understand what minor does. (He looks for the game)
Then an exercise I had read about but never done. Sock tails in a scene plus major/ minor.
It goes like this: Set up a room set, chairs a table, a sofa, a phone.
2 people each with socks down the back of their trousers, 1 is on stage, the other is off.
The person in major (the one on stage) starts the show " pretending to be actor"
The director has said to him, "your pleasure is fantastic, I want you to start the show" so he does, he shows his pleasure to be in the space to have fun, not be boring to take the stage. (major also has a ball)
When Monsieur professor plays the sound of a doorbell the player in major goes to answer the door. He throws the ball to the other player(minor) who now becomes major (minor, now major has come to borrow a cup of sugar) they speak with a voice to tease their friend. When they start to pedal in the sauerkraut (I believe we roast beef's say swim in the shit) they look at their friend cha-chack! moment of complicity. Throw them the ball. Their friend takes over.
At the same time they also play the sock tail game. If you get your friends sock, you give it back, not a fight for the sock like a previous game from Friday.

I hope this makes sense
Monsieur Gaulier said "Mark, you could be better in major, at the beginning you were better at the start of the exercise, not excellent but not totally horrible."

When another student playing in major entered with a gun Monsieur professor got her to play the scene and at the same time drop the scene and turn to her daddy in the audience and say something like...
" Daddy,look at me. I'm a terrorist. I'm going to walk 3 steps like a terrorist (she walked 3 steps). Daddy look at me. I'm not really a terrorist. It's just for the fun. ( she would keep pointing the gun at her partnerwhilst turning her head to talk to Daddy)
Daddy I'm going to shooty him now. Pchow Pchow! Her partner dies. Daddy its theatre. We can kill everybody. It's a joke, for the fun."
That's not word perfect, I'm not a stenographer nor can I rite short hand but it was something like this.
And in this little bit lies 1 part of the genius of le jeu.
The child soul of the actor, seeking love on the stage, carving out beauty within the lie of the theatre.
Daddy. Mummy. Look at me I'm on stage and I'm in major. Through the lens of childrens games we access the kingdom of fantasy and imagination. It is a beautiful world and you have to be beautiful to play there.
The actor has to beautiful even when he plays ugly.

During class Philippe got a student, Amy to touch the table without looking at it, to repeat the name frederic, frederic. at the end of clas Dan asked why this was.
Monsieur professor said that it was for effect, to help the audience to dream around the character. We wonder why she does this and these things stay with the audience, he gave the example of a book, literature may tell you howa character moves or stands or walks in the description, but it is our job as actors todo this kind of work. We have to give.
Our beauty is a gift to the audience.
Tomorrow I go in search of beauty.


Costume flop.
But it got a laugh, my idea, Monsieur said that it could be a good idea this, the clown whose costume is not ready, but in a later exercise he said again that I mock myself, that I mock my costume and that I don't smile enough.

Righto monsieur.
You are right.

Tomorrow I try not to move so much on stage, come on with the feeling of a bad student, to smile more and not mock myself, rather to be optimistic and shine.

It's funny, when I am at home performing for the cat I am a good clown, light funny, optimistic but in class, non.
At home I can feel the kind of energy needed for the stage, yet it escapes me infront of the spotlights.

I want to find my funny in the spotlights.
I have had it before in front of the public and I want it again and again and again, to understand, with my body where it lives, how I can access it and use it to make a good living for me and my family. And if this smacks of desperation, Oui c'est ca, I am desperate to find it,I know I'm cut out for more than the odd fringe show once or twice a year.

Help me monsieur, help me to find how I am funny, s'il vous plait.

Costume crisis

Evening all, hope all is well with you and yours.
The weekend was pretty interesting, a first trip into Paris on Saturday to try and get things for my costume, on Friday Mnsieur Gaulier gave everyone in class a costume, moi je suis Obelix.

Obelix, obelix obelix, where are you hiding?

Possibly in march Montreuil, so to Montreuil.
So with hand in pocket gripping wallet I set out among the stoteholders and bargain hunting public....
Here Obelix obelix, where are you my little Obelix, is hee here amongst the second hand jackets and trousers?
Non Obelix no est ici.

How about there with the bric-a brac and dusty books?
Maybe with the pot and pan man? A helmet perhaps?
Non. Too small for my melon.

Suddenly a brain flash as I pass the fabric stall.
Yes! Lightning has streaked across my imagination, c'est un bon idee. A wide smile fixes itself to my face.

I'll make the costume from scratch myself.
I leave the market with a new second hand suitcase, metres of blue and white fabric and armfulls of red wool for Obelix's moustache and hair.
I also have a plan for a silver foil helmet.

Ha ha ha, formidable.
Wait till they get a load of this in class on Monday.

Drinking with friends I watch Saturday night float down the Seine
Due to works on the RER (train line) it takes a tipsy  3 hours to get home.

Wake up at 11.
Breakfast till 11:30
Back in the room I take out the cloth, needles, cotton and wool.
Suddenly the realisation of the challenge I have set myself sits on the floor in front of me.
The last time I sewed anything was in a junior school art class.
Last night someone mentioned something about making a pattern.
A pattern?
Memories of fittings at drama school surface.
Inside leg.
Ourside leg.
Now what?
I decide to approach this scientifically....
I look at my jeans hung over the armoir door.
okay, jeans, they seem to be made of 4 pieces, 2 for each leg.
Right. I decide I'll do the same thing.
I spot a black biro and without a seconds thought draw a thin black line down from chest to my naval. Okay this is my centre line.
I do the same on my inside leg and another line going up from the outside of my ankle to under my arm pit.
Now for the measurements...
Luckily Christine has dropped me off her sewing kit which contains a tape measure.
I measure accross between the 2 lines, first on the front of my body and then on the back.
"Maarrrk. dejuner!"
Ah Boef bourgignon, Beef and vegetables soaked overnight in a strong red wine.

After the late lunch I make my excuses re-enter the sweatshop and continue to measure and transfer them onto sheets of newspaper that I have cellotaped together.

It takes hours but by about 9 I have something resembling a pattern.
I pin it to the fabric and cut the shapes out.
All 4 pieces cut out I stand back to admire my handiwork.
It really doesn't look like a pair of trousers yet. 
I pin the 2 front pieces together and then the 2 back pieces.
Then I start to sew.
And sew.
And sew.
At 11:30 my aching back tells me it is time to retire to bed.
I have so far managed to stitch half of the front 2 piueces together.
I am so not going to be ready for class tomorrow.
I don't know if this will be a good clowns costume but for sure it will look like a costume made by a clown.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Naz this ones for you so i fill the quota... i want that squeker

After class........
few drinks,
few laughs...
missing somebody
will regale more about classes tomorrow...
I love what I'm doing.

love to all

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I re-read my blog from last night, apologies for spelling mistakes, I was very tired I think I called Claude Francois by mistake too just in case you got confused.  Oh and in the one from 2 days ago when I talked about my success on the silks it should have said that I made it 3 feet up the silk but I was typing on a french keyboard and none of the numbers work unless you push the shift key first. Oh well, another lesson learned.

Okay so Francois has again thrashed me at chess, he assures me that I will win at least one game while I am here. And I will, if I get him very very drunk, or else spike his wine with sleeping pills.

Okay class today - movement... I'm liking it more and more today we looked at creating a human tower and generally climbing all over each, I nearly killed Dan when I tried to stand on his legs, serves him right for being late to class a couple of times.
I asked Claude today whether we were working towards falls and trips, I'm not sure that he understood 100% but I got a positive "Oui, oui" either way.


Very good today. Explored the feeling of Major & minor with a ball exercise. I felt a huge rush of pleasure as it was my turn to be in major.
"Mummy! Daddy. I'm on stage and I'm in major, I'm the king of the stage, here in Etampes..."
Monsieur asked me to walk back, I guess this was to take more of the space, to own the stage. It's what we have to do, love being everywhere on it. What occurred to me about Le Jeu is that so far it has not been about character or acting or even performing.
This is work for the spirit of the actor, the spirit of each of us who dreams of working in this beautiful profession, that is so often polluted with the poison of cynicism.

Work on others, a song to soften the bad boy, another to breathe life into someone who hides, and the lesson, we can wear ourselves however we want in the outside world but in the land of dreams that is the theatre we have to be open and show our beautiful soul and not hide in the costume that we wear to go out to buy cigarettes or fish, the beautiful open soul is what the stage requires for when we show our beauty we inspire it in others, even if only for the life of the play.
But what a beautiful thing to share, non?

Today we went horse riding, ice skating and rock and roll dancing, all with no knowledge of what any of them were.
The idiot who has pleasure to try to convince the audience that he is the next Nuyev even though he doesn't know who Nuryev is.
I must have written the word pleasure about 20 times in 2 hours, the idiot who shows his pleasure after doing something stupid, this is the clown. The pleasure to be with the family, who looks for the King of Sweden in the audience thinking he will get the nobel prize for rock and roll.
And if you don't understand any of this, don't worry, neither does the clown.

Do you really want to be a star?

During yesterdays class Philippe said to a me and someone else that "you are not with us, you are a star up there."
My ego wanted to believe this was a comment in high praise of my immense talent and acting prowess, but I knew it wasn't.
Oh how vain I can be...

His words stuck with me throughout the day and tonight at about 10:30 passing from the kitchen, through the patio, to my room to get this little lap-top, it hit me. Right there in the darkness.
Actually, several of them did.
Yes. Stars.
What are they to us?
Nothing but tiny pin pricks of light shining out there in the black thousands of miles away.
We don't get to see them blazing.
No, we barely see them but for a tiny dot of light.
Is this the type of actor you want to be?
Ze star?
The star, who is small on the stage, who is swallowed by the black of the theatre, who has no contact with the public who does not look for the family in the auditoreum, who hides himself except for a little light, is this who you want to be?

Is it?

Or do you want to share your soul with the audience, light up the stage and set fire to their imaginations so they can dream around you?

We actors have to blaze

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The beautiful kingdom of games

10 past 11 on Wednesday evening, the house is quiet but for a beautifully lilting french monologue swimming across the room from the radio in the corner. The actors words lap into my ears.
Francois has just thrashed me at chess again and has now retired to bed. He is really interesting man, apparently he has written one letter a week to his mother for the past 10 years, over 500 letters, mainly stories about his girls, he thinks it could be interesting for his daughters grandchildren to read. I picture this mountain of memories and wonder if there is something in this image that could be the starting point for a piece of theatre. Over dinner he tells me of his time in London in 1981, how he turned up with no money, walked into a B&B asked for a job and was taken on as the night porter. He worked for only his room and board and when several months later he wanted something that paid he went to the job centre telling them he was a waiter. 2 hours later he was hired by a restaurant in Kensington to begin his first shift that evening. He had to carry the plates up his arms and 3 times ended up dropping them one after another. The manager calle dthe boss and siad Francois had to come in the following day and was likely to be fired, there was an old Spanish guy that worked there, who Francois said was a fascist fan of Franco. the guy took pity on Francois and that evening taught him for 3 hours to carry plates. the following day when the owner came and said to Francois we see how you carry the plates but if you drop even one you are fired, he didn't drop a single one, so then he worked as a waiter in London. He told me of the Polish pot wash who back home was an engineer but was out of the country when there was a coup and a the yugoslav chef who smoked when he cooked, flicking the ash into the dishes, how the pot wash was a chess champion and he and the chef would go out, the chef getting rich by betting on the pot wash's skills but the pot wash never saw any of the money.

Come on, there's got to be a play here, non?

je digress...

Movement; no silks today, i was secretly glad as ity still seems well out of my grasp and  my arms and stomach muscles ached ( I didn't realise I had any).
Instead, endurance training; forward rolls, backward rolls, crawling accross the floor like a cat, leaping a 2 foot pole, exercises for the abs, exercises for the biceps, triceps, hips and thighs, leaping up onto one another from infront and behind as well as weelbarrows and a slide across the floor exercise that confused the hell out of me.
I'm very sweaty by the end of it.
Francois refers to us comedians, with the silks I couldn't understand why, it felt more like a circus coures and I'm  sure that we will be back on the silks tomorrow however today I felt that with this kind of training physical comedy, good physical comedy could well come within our reach.

Jeu avec le monsieur.
Todays games: Samuel says, dancing with patner to find the joy of the lie, grandmothers footsteps in groups, a brilliant game for complicity with 5 chairs and the ball in the rope game.

The liars voice, he picked on myself and George.
"Mak yoo are facking bored wiv you partner!"
" What? No, no no, Philippe that's not true, it's it's it's....... blah blah blah"
I won't bother boring you with the rest of it because this is about as interesting as it gets but what I did notice was a good initialimpulse followed by a load of crap as I tried to come up with witty ideas and clever things to say however I'm neither clever nor witty so I was doomed to fail travelling that path.
There was some very slight eye contact between myself and George but nothing even approaching complicite.
When will i remember to breathe on stage.
It is best summed up in Philippe's comment after we finished.
" But zees, it was awful."

The voice, the voice of the liar it has to be fun amusing, full of colour and life not the voice of a castrated cat who says " ay,ay,ay where are my balls?"

exercises to play with the voice us ea market sellers voice, the fish seller, the poptatoe seller, the guy who shouts "Meevenin Mew" along Piccadilly.

An exercise between 2 students demonstrated not only voice but how we have to be comfortable with who we are as actors.
 How our bodies direct us creatively, you take 2 students, 1 big the other slim we listen to their voice for sure the slimmer 1 looks and sounds posher, maybe we have a lady Macbeth, the other she is shorter, rounder and her voice louder, maybe we have Ma Ubu.

We took the same 2 students and he asked who would be Queen Anne in Richard III, for sure the posher looking one, why because in our imagination she is closer to Anne, her body leads her that way.
Does this mean that the other will never play Anne? No, but it would take an imaginative director.

What is the lesson here?
Learn who you are.
Learn what you have to work with.


Pleasure pleasure pleasure.
The exercise was simple.
Enter in a funny groucho nose/ mask and you have to make silly voices for your family who are in the audience.
Rather than talk you through class I'll just put a load of quotes from class

"You are not with your family, you are withyour shitty idea"

" It has to be for the fun darling, for the fun!!"

"Too much character, not enough with the family."

" You don't show your pleasure, we hate you."

"A clown never says I don't understand."

"If the clown is sent off he tries to find a way to come back. If he finds a way we think he has spirit."

"In the pleasure there is something magic. We love to see people with pleasure."

" The pleasure after doing something idiot is a big part of the clown. The best part."

Did I find my pleasure?
Nope I did find about 3 seconds of the naughty boy entrance but that was it.
Tomorrow I go in search of pleasure, if the best clowns are the ones who have the best pleasure then that is what I have to have.
Where does it hide?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 2 c'est finis the unashanedly bad student

I'm writing this sat in front of a popping fire in the front room of my hosts beautifully eccentric home, a small library of books stares down over me  and the cat Chat~mellow (marshmallow cat) is having his belly tickled by louise. The taste of vegetable  soup, garlicky salad and  home~cooked quiche lorraine still lingers in my mouth, all is good in my world.

Okay my arms still hurt a little from movement class but I feel like I made a little progress today our coach Claude (the name thing finally cleared up) was again swift to dart from one exercise to the next. The warm up today was more active than yesterday. Amongst other things there was a combination of scurrying around in a squat position, arm stretches, walking around like a gorilla with its arms and legs in braces, falling to the floor and moving slow motion and spinning round like 5 year olds (probably my favourite part).
Then the real work started, first in pairs we had to jump and catch one another, I'm always slightly wary of these types of exercises, I'm about 17 stone at the moment (no idea what that is in kilo's but I know it's a lot) and when we had to find a partner I ended up with Hannah who looks about half my size and weight.
Ladies first, she leaped up I caught her and the first thing I noticed was a slight constriction of the blood to my toes, f#%k me if she doesn't have strong thighs.
I put her down and there was a slight awkwardness as to whether I should go or not. She said she felt okay, I didn't. We called Claude over and he spotted her. Okay no use backing out and ......leap!
She caught me.
Then again without Claude.
Next the silk work.
Claude wants us to get used to staying on the silk by wrapping it around our feet and locking our shoulders, so, exercises to practice the shoulder lock.
For me the shoulder lock was okay but............... Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!  My fingers and wrists aren't strong enough to hold my body yet.
Oh did I mention I managed to climb " feet off the ground. It's not everest but it is an improvement on yesterday.
Bring on tomorrow!

Le Jeu
What did I learn today?
Samuel says
Grandmas footsteps
The same but with a scene and trying not to get moving by Michiko when she turned round.
Monsieur Gaulier " You see nobody in zis groop is boreeng when they play zis. Nobody. Surprising!"
I was kicked off the game early, I move too much. It was great to see my classmates have pleasure to be in the space and I think that part of it came from them respecting the game.
Me I didn't feel much pleasure up there, but I guess a bonus is that I can recognize that fact.
When I sat down I was gutted to have gone out so early but then I realized that I was putting pressure on myself to be good rather than finding my pleasure in the space.

Don't try and be good go out to have fun with your friends, this is the lesson. But have I learned it?

Next exercise: the pleasure to imitate.
Philippe asked for a student, Danno from Texas gets up, he is a good looking guy, kind of like a cousin of the kings of leon before they went shit and started making stadium rock.
Philippe starts asking Danno questions and then asks for several of us to get up and imitate him. Here I had fun, it was a bit nasty, a bit playful still with a lot of pleasure to "be good"  but there were a few laughs especially when i insinuate dthat Danno liked to get old ladies drunk so he could f%#k them, I hope he didn't take offence, it was all in fun.

After only 2 days there are snatches of pleasure starting to come now I need to find a way of turning the critic off and focussing on finding my fun more and more.

I asked Philippe about pleasure at the end of class I don't 100% remeber the question and I don't 100% remember his answer but this quote I do remember.
"For sure ze best clown and best actors are ze ones that 'ave ze most pleasure." Philippe Gaulier 11/10/11

Pleasure pleasure pleasure let the pleasure lead not the ideas.
Part 2 clown
Exercise for entrance.
1 by 1 we enter with the funny noses and glasses and we see what happens. My note to self from yesterday was that I should try and explore the feeling of the bad student yet I went out there too confident, without sensitivity and without complicity, I got centre stage and began tapping on an imaginary typewriter tick tick tick tick tick tick....
C'est terrible Monsieur flop is coming to get you!!!

To say it was boring would be an understatement, in fact I was upstaged by the door to the workshop closing fairly loudly.
Uh~oh upstaged by a door. Definitely time to go.

And I started to take myself off stage.

Ha Ha Ha from the audience.

Immediately Philippe pounces.
"You see, we like im better when 'e leaves."

He got me to do my crappy typewriter thing again (and as I write this referring to it as the "crappy typewriter thing" shows that there was no pleasure in it for me, that I didn't believe that it was ever going to work, that it was about as imaginative as a sock.) I did it in the corner of the room by the exit, a smile from a supportive classmate or 2 but not much more.
And fin

Philippe said something like I forgot the feeling of the bad student, he has said this before and I thought I understood but today it resonated a bit differently. Bad, sure bad means a lot of things but it doesn't mean that when the teacher tells them off they go crying to maman, no bad like the naughty kid, the cheeky one, the one that makes jokes, that has fun all the time and they can't be good because they are not intellectual, no they prefer fun, games to run around and play with water pistolsto get get dirty and have mud pie fights but when maman says inside now they go, not without putting up a fight to have 10 more minutes of fun.
7 minutes?
5? just 5more minutes of play and then I'll come in.
Oh Pleeeeeaaase?

The one who is not ashamed, who wanders in when no~one expects him, who wants to play, who will do anything for 5 more minutes under the spotlights   and shows his true pleasure in doing so.

This is who I go looking for tomorrow.
Day 2.
I rise at 10. A little later than I wanted but after a lovely meal followed by Francois thrashing me at chess for the fourth time since Sunday, writing up my notes from class and several cigarettes I eventually climbed into bed around 1:30 a.m. so the extra hour was justified.

My shoulders feel tight after yesterdays movement class, note to self, make sure you stretch before and after class. It's going to be a challenge, we are learning rope and silk work, our teacher whose name I can't recall (He's french, could it be Claude?) is moving at quite a pace and has assured us that strength is not what we need to tackle this. Nope apparently it is down to weight distribution, well I have a lot of weight to distribute and my body reckons that a forklift truck might come in handy.

Movement; 34 of us begin by lying on the floor going through a short routine that will help us better understand how to shift our weight appropriately. I'm not sure that I grasp it yet though I do have a fairly decent understanding of my neighbours hands and feet as the studio is a bit too cosy for all of us to try the routine without knocking into each other.
The routine moves faster than a high speed train and if we are not quick enough we will surely be running to try and catch up.

No sooner have I half understood than we are moving on to the silks, with cat like grace and monkey like agility our instructor (Francois?) shimmy'sup the silk and glides effortlessly back down again. "à seconds of explanation and it is our go.
I watch a couple of my classmates do okay then my turn, I wrestle with the silk my body working, convinced it is making progress but my eyes tell it different after 60 seconds of straining, muscles tensing, blood pumping and arms shaking I hava managed to climb the sum total of 1.5 feet off the floor, and that's a pretty generous estimation.
Can we back the fork_lift in please?
After we all have 1 attempt the tutor (Jean Jacques?) shows us the next move which basically consists of climbing up switching the silk around, doing a yogic move with the legs and finally hanging from the silk like a parrot on a perch, again several colleagues nail it.
Use less strength I say to myself.
I hang on the silk, flail my legs around enough to get them wrapped in the silk, get very confused, thrash them around to get it off again and fall the full - inches back to solid ground.
The final demonstration of the day the monkey/cat (Louis ?) kick his legs over his head then defy gravity to spin up the silk and tie himself off hanging there like a human mobile. I'll settle for managing to kick my legs over my head, which I do, on the 7th attempt.
Pierre? reminds us to stretch and it's lesson over.

A quick cigarette then into studio 1 for le jeu.
Monsieur Gaulier looks great, red braces  denim jacket huge hat  and that ever present twinkle, he says it is good to see me and I believe him, he really does seem to like his students. A world away from the cynicism towards them that can so often run through other teachers.
Le Jeu; right now due to time and that  to list all te exercises would probably prove a little boring I'll sum up my learning as seen in others and sort of experienced myself.
Compicity seems to start in the eyes of your partner and you but for the first time yesterday I saw it in the body too. & couple ( in a ball game between 2 foreheads) had it not only in the eyes, so much so that the text of Romeo and Juliet could have worked, but also in their soft open bodies, bodies that were light and responsive, as monsieur G said they took care of each other.
The voice, the voice is a tricky one for us actors here, monsieur would have us play with a loud voice full of colour and jokes but the pressure to speak without a text can make us dry up, our throats to choke us and nothing but the sound of a tiny cat fart escapes when we try to speak.
Here we must have joy to speak, real joy to say my text because I am in major and the audience are looking at me.
Tres dificil.
And yet this is what we must learn to do.
Somehow, some way. I found a little something with my partner but I also mocked her, not on stage, non an actor must have joy to be with his fellow actor not be sarcastic or cutting, the character ma but the actor, non. This is a big lesson for me about Le Jeu, it its there to help the actor find something for it is te actor who must breathe life into the character, not the other way around, and so it follows that the actor must find his or her pleasure and channel it through the character. Hemust love being on the stage, not like it, LOVE IT.

Very quickly now as I have 5 minutes before I need to leave.
You want to know how to play clown with a text? Then watch Philippe.
When he tells the story of the birth of clown, and I guess he has told the story thousands of times, his radar are tuned his comic antennae are feeling for the laughs of the audience, if we laugh at one of his accents or a face he pulls he gives us more of this, playing with the audience response, it really is great to see.
What did I learn today, a big lesson for me, and I have done 3 week lond workshops with Philippe and every time I go back to basics,
" Wen you ontur , you onteer wiv ze feeleeng of bad student, you con't ontur as olympic champion. Ze clown is bad but he is appy too be bad."
This just about sums it up, for me I need to remember with the feeling of a bad student someone who shouldn't really be there but is happy to be on stage and also to have the fun to pretend.
Remember Monsieur Marcel's advice to the clown who wanted to play Romeo and Juliet; " You want to play Shakespeare? Shakespeare is not easy. A love story? You mean  Romeo and Juliet? Well my little one if you want to play Romeo and Juliet you need a balcony."
So for é hours é clowns build a balcony thinking they are doing Romeo and Juliet.
The dream of the idiot who wants to make great art.
"But zees is beautiful, non?"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Leaving in 5 for day 1

Just a really quick post before I fall out the door and into school.
Very excited, been for a run this morning, well more of a fast walk but I'll hopefully do it most days and build up some stamina. It's rather grey and overcast outside, ordinarily a fairly miserable day but I don't care because I'M GOING TO GAUUULLLIEEEERR!

Can you tell I'm excited?

More on the day later but for now...

Au Revoir

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Finally. I've made it.
I'm here and I can't quite believe it!
After a lot of thought, many conversations, not one, but two lots of bad news concerning funding followed by my family's incredible belief and generosity I'm finally here.

But where is here I hear you ask.
Well let me enlighten you.
Je suis en Pareeeeeeee!

Etampes to be precise.
Etampes, a small suburb in the south of Paris, 500 m wide and 3 km long.
Etampes, residence of my wonderful french hosts, Christine and Francois Blanchot and their loving family.
Etampes home to the recently relocated Ecole Philippe Gaulier and the reason why I'm here.

The Ecole Philippe Gaulier.

Philippe is the school and students travel from all over the world to learn from Attilla the Clown.

To be provoked by the man whom, depending on how you see him, is either a theatrical genius whose astute eye (he is blind in the other) and wonderfully non-p.c. humour helps students to dig deep to discover the light within themselves and eventually, freedom on stage.

Or else a sexist, racist bigot (I've heard him called this by a german writer in a berlin workshop in 2010) whose jokes belittle his students and stifle them preventing them from learning.

Whichever camp you sit, in one thing is for sure Philippes teaching and ergo this type of learning is at total odds to the majority of formal education.

Watch out anyone coming from a school system where the emphasis is on remembering facts and re-assembling them in a formal context to achieve those long fored A*'s.

Avec Monsieur Gaulier there is no lying back with mouth open waiting to be spoon fed information or routines of dance steps to be remembered all in preparation for the ever so important exams.


If this is what you expect, then do your homework.

This attitude is Merde.

Merde Total!

We come here for Freedom and Freedom can not be drip-fed into you as you lay comatose on the classroom floor.


Freedom comes from work and discovery of spirit.

For this a teacher can not make your discoveries for you. He can only create the conditions for you to make them yourself.

True freedom as taught at the school comes from discovering the light inside yourself.

The light that may only be the twinkling of an ember and barely bright enough for you to see.
So what do you do? 
You go on searching.
And through the teachers provocation and observation of your peers you see the embers dance and flicker in and out of the corners of your periphary.
But slowly you begin to focus in on them and you begin to understand where they live.

And then you go there every day to fan the embers so they grow.

And grow.

And with care and attention the flames start to lick up and the fire cracks and pops and you work to continue feeding them and one day, if you are lucky, you burst ablaze and light up the stage with the brilliance of your soul having found the freedom to truly play.

Then all that you want to do is be on the stage and play with your friends for the audience.
Why would you want to do anything else.

To open the box of their imagination and set them free too, even if only for the hour and a half of the show.

You have to be free so that they can be also.

This is what I hope to begin to achieve here in the little town of Etampes at the little school on the corner.