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.