Gaulier said, “Theatre equals the pleasure of the game plus play”. But it is literally the hardest thing to do; to tap into your pleasure when you’re in a state of panic, terror or frustration.
So while I’ve learned that this style of pedagogy is not really for me, it’s got me thinking a lot about how to and access pleasure and play. Games can be a key. In our movement class with Carlo we explore games as the starting point for improvised scenes with a myriad of effects:
Authentic reactions – how the actor plays, how competitive they are, as well as their emotional response to winning and losing all become apparent while playing a game. And when we see this we can fall in love with them.
Impulse – the game can provide an impulse that drives the text and the scene
Connection – simply by playing high stakes game the players connect, through eye contact as well as action and reaction
Life – games create a sense of immediacy and liveness for a scene as opposed to getting stuck in our head, restricted by thoughts
Jeopardy – a bit of healthy competition can raise the stakes and the energy of the scene and the actors
Subtext – in some cases a playing hidden game can provide an interesting subtext to the scene
In class we play the following games:
Grandma’s Footsteps - to train the ensemble to work together and play with the opportunity of ‘getting caught’ by grandma. From here we try to be charming so we can get closer like singing a song or creating a dance
Steal the tail – while improvising a basic scene between two actors each has steal the tail (a scarf tucked in the back of their trousers). Whoever has the tail plays in major and should taunt and tease the other with the stolen tail. The aim is to let the game and its impulses drive the scene and the text.
Hand slaps – also known as slapsies and red hand, the same improvised scene begins with the actors playing the game of slaps again using the impulses of winning and losing, and of pleasure and pain to play the game.
The trick now is to take those risks to play and find pleasure…even if I fail.
Robyn is a Bristol-based director, teacher and performer. With over 20 years experience she is a passionate practitioner of clowning, physical theatre, circus and street arts. She has a MA in Circus Directing, a Diploma of Physical Theatre Practice and trained with a long line of inspiring teachers including Holly Stoppit, Peta Lily, Giovanni Fusetti, Bim Mason, Jon Davison, Zuma Puma, Lucy Hopkins and John Wright.
Over the past five years she has been exploring the meeting point of clowning and a deep desire to address the injustices in the world. This specialism has developed through her Masters Research ‘Small Circus Acts of Resistance’, on the streets and in protests with the Bristol Rebel Clowns and in research residencies with The Trickster Laboratory.
Robyn’s Activist Clown research has led to collaborations with Jay Jordan (Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, France), Clown Me In (Beirut), LM Bogad (US), Hilary Ramsden (Greece) and international Tricksters; ‘The Yes Men’ (US).
During the pandemic in 2020, Robyn set up The Online Clown Academy with Holly Stoppit and developed a series of Zoom Clown Courses. Robyn’s research, started during her Masters, has been exploring the meeting point of clowning and activism, online, in the real world and with international collaborators. With this drive to explore political edges of her work she has also dived back into the world of the Bouffon; training with Jaime Mears, Bim Mason, Nathaniel Justiniano, Eric Davis, Tim Licata, Al Seed and the grand master Bouffon-himself; Philippe Gaulier.
Keen to explore the intersection of clowning and politics, Robyn is driven to create collaborative, research spaces, testing and pushing the limits of the artform to create new knowledge and methodologies for her industry and strengthen partnerships for future work. Some of her most recent collaborations and teaching projects have included the Nomadic Rebel Clown Academy (5-day Activist Clown Training), The Laboratory of the Un-beautiful (Feminist Grotesque Bouffon Training for Womxn Theatre Makers) and the Clown Congress (annual gathering of clowns, activists & academics collectively exploring what it means to be a clown in this current era)