"It is strictly no strings attached (other than the ones to red noses)." BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts student Miranda Porter talks about the Rose Bruford College Clown Society:
How did you get into clowning?
I discovered clowning during my first year of studying BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts at. One of the first modules of the course provides an introduction to European models of theatre practice. This includes workshops in different approaches to devising and performance techniques, one of which is clown. In previous years I had gained considerable experience of improvisation, but had not previously experienced clown. In this workshop we played games designed to help each person find the nature of their clown, such as a version of musical chairs where the last person to sit down has to try to make the group laugh, doing anything they think might work! This playfulness and freedom was something I took to straight away. As someone who loves making people laugh, clowning gave me an opportunity to try all the silly and awkward ideas in my head without fear.
Who are you influenced by?
I’ve pursued further clown training across Europe and have attended workshops in France, Finland, Spain and London. I’ve learnt from all my teachers, although I found Philippe Gaulier and Angela de Castro particularly inspiring. Their endless joy in play is contagious and they both have such refined and sharp eyes for what does and doesn’t work. I learnt a lot from them both very quickly!
What happens at a typical Clown Society meeting?
The Rose Bruford Clown Society provides a space where we can share exercises and games we had played or read about, from practitioners such as Jacques Lecoq and Gaulier. We meet for an hour and a half or two hours, usually twice a month. It’s a small community in which everyone can experiment with what makes people laugh and teach each other how we can be funny.
With the generous support of the Students' Union, we have been lucky enough to welcome clown specialists to lead some sessions of the clown society, at a greatly reduced price to students. Last week we were delighted to welcome Angela de Castro who led her workshop in ‘The Pleasure of Playing’. Students from across the three years of study in the School of Performance and Design, Management and Technical Arts enjoyed de Castro’s invigorating and inspiring workshop that highlights the importance of playing. She firmly believes “fun is a necessity, not a luxury”, and highlights how the principles of clowning are applicable to many areas of performance. “For performers, actors and clowns it is important to keep the state of playfulness fresh and alive, to feed the soul and keep it light. Playing is fundamental for the work of an actor. Our job is to transfer the freedom, the spontaneity and the pleasure of playing that the games provide to our work on the stage.”
What has the response been from your fellow students?
The response has been exceptionally welcoming. Amongst the intense training of a degree course, it is reassuring and refreshing to have a space to play with no pressure. This is reflected in the flexibility of the sessions. We organise them irregularly to accommodate the students’ commitments, and adapt what we do in the sessions according to the number of people who attend. It is strictly no strings attached (other than the ones to red noses) and no prior experience needed! Clowning is exceptionally welcoming in this regard, and an audience usually find inexperience or confusion funny!
What are your plans once you graduate?
I shall continue to run the clown society until I hand it over when I finish my studies at Rose Bruford this summer. This summer, I am taking a solo comedic show to UK fringe festivals, and hope to start facilitating professional clown workshops soon after. I strongly believe the clown society will continue at Rose Bruford, and look forward to hearing about its growing success.
“Joining the Clown Society I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I signed up to explore something new and have a laugh. I was the only Design, Management and Technical Arts student in the first session, but right from the start I felt comfortable and involved. For me, Clown Society provides a space to forget about any stress over uni work, personal troubles or troubling current affairs and instead focus on playing and laughing and making others laugh. It's an hour and a half/two hours a week when all that is expected of you is to be silly, sometimes that's more challenging than it sounds but the challenge pushes you to find new ways to entertain and interact and it's always fun.”
Oli Tratt BA (Hons) Scenic Arts student and Clown Society member.