A well needed night off last night which was also a celebration.
Yesterday I flew in clown.
The exercise was one we did last week and one that I really wanted to have a go at; The Audition.
The exercise is simple: Monsieur Loyal is auditioning for a new actor, he says "Do we have an actor here?"
The Clown "Yeees! Me! I am an actor!"
Monsieur Loyal says "Ah you are an actor? Show me how an actor walks."
And from here the clown plays at pretending to be an actor for Monsieur Loyal.
He is pleased to speak to Monsieur Loyal because Monsieur Loyal is the boss of the circus. The main man.
Philippe likened it to a child talking to a teacher. "Yes Monsieur Loyal. Of course Monsieur Loyal. Ha ha ha Monsieur Loyal."
Last week Philippe worked a lot with everyone who got up and I really wanted that.
Andre was our Monsieur Loyal. Ah, Andre, such a generous straight man, I heard someone in school say of him that he is already a star. They might well be right. He is very quick on stage constantly suggesting games and he says yes to everything.
Yesterday Philippe worked with Kiki, a spanish street performer with a lot of experience and by his own admission, years of working on the street have meant that he has created a hard outer shell, a tough persona that he is struggling to crack. Philippe spent a while working with him trying to get him to open up, at moments it was difficult to watch because we could see him suffering but finally the mask fell and Kiki was there naked before us, Gone was the plastered on smile and the defensive posture, gone was the laughing at himself when he flopped and what we saw was on open soul, beautiful, fragile and full of humanity.
I was really glad for Kiki and touched to see him so vulnerable on stage. Philippe has promised him that he will be tough on him if he relies on his tricks anymore and I hope he does Kiki, its what Kiki wants.
I knew I wanted to get up and when Kiki sat I got up.
I went backstage with Andre, took my T-shirt off, I wanted to expose my wobbly bits. Put on the swimming cap, goggles and red nose.
Andre looked at me and said " Lets have some fun, eh?" or words to that effect.
The intro music struck up and Andre walked out on to stage.
I had seconds before I had to enter.
I shaved yesterday morning, hacked off the beard and the wispy bits that try to hide my jowels but I thought I'd leave myself a handlebar 'tache and the soul spot under the bottom lip.
I hadn't seen my face since shaving, when Andre entered I caught sight of my reflection in the window and smiled as I looked ridiculous.
half a second later I was on stage kept buoyant by the feeling of ridiculousness.
Philippe is right you have to feel ridiculous, without it how can you access your stupidity, so I guess this is the challenge for us wannabee clowns, how do we feel ridiculous, really ridiculous so that we can walk out and it has already started. The motor is already running.
I donb't know what happened out there, I think it helped that Philippe gave advice about the reltionship between Clown and Monsieur Loyal. I had that to focus on.
Andre was brilliant, in the sense that light can be brilliant, he really helped light the way for me.
Instead of just saying let me see you walk like an actor he said " Have you read the scene?"
"Yes Monsieur Loyal, of course I have read the scene, I have read the whole script."
"then we'll do the scene, are you ready Mr President."
" Are you ready Mr. President"
"No thats the cue and then you walk forward and you say I am the president."
" Ah yes, of course Monsieur Loyal.........."
To be truthful even if i could remember word for word how the scene went there would be little point in me writing it here.
It wouldn't be funny to read it. If you don't believe me try reading Tristan Remy's Clown Scenes. They don't come off the page.
What I can tell you is that at one point Philippe got me to lower my voice , it went through several stages, from angry glaswegian to Tommy Cooper via Yoda and Cookie Monster but the audience seemed to really like it, that's the beautiful and the terrifying part of clown yu know instantly, either they laugh or they don't there aren't any half measures.
Philippe also pointed out that I wasn't looking at Monsieur Loyal, thatI wasn't checking in to see if Monsieur Loyal approved of my "acting". Of course the maestro was right, I was playing out front and nothing was going to Andre, but once he pointed this out we really flew.
Suddenly there was game between us and the batting back and forth of the impulse started.
Quite what happened in the rest of the number I'm not too sure. At some point we switched and I ended up directing Andre.
There was a lot of laughter, a lot and when they weren't laughing for a few seconds it felt like an hour, I don't know if medically it is possible to become addicted to laughter but I feel like I've had my first hit of an intoxicating drug and I want more.
At the end Philippe said "It's good. Very Good." Aha high praise indeed.
I spoke to Philippe today, his advice was that my ideas are good but that I need to play more (that's not exactly the way he put it, damn you short term memory)that I could pretend to be more pretentious as the director.
He also talked about being in a groove, again not his terminology, and how we need to find that thing, the motor for the ridiculous.
Again I go looking for this. I want to know how to turn it on at will, once you find this, you enter with it and immediatly the audience laugh. Oh to find this motor, then great things will be possible.
I was chatting with Ed in the cafe du depart after class and he pointed out what he thought was the reason for the exercise, that if you can play for Monsieur Loyal with pleasure and look for his approval then it is only a matter of turning 90 degrees so that you do the same but for the audience. I like this, it make sense to me.
So know as well as finding the ridiculous motor I need to turn 90 degrees.