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  • markewinstanley3

Our Story

We thought we'd share how The Performers' Playground evolved and also our plans moving forward.

Rewind to 2009 we were both teaching at the University of Salford and training whenever we could with Clown teachers in Uk and Europe. Alice had just got back from 2 months on the idyllic island of Ibiza (not the clubbing region the hippy bit) at Escola De Clown, with Eric De Bont. I had been training in contact impro and Clown play/creation. Mark had been training in a circus tent in Cal Clown, Figueras, with Jon Davison and Clara Cenoz. Figueras is a little town famous for the wind that supposedly turns people mad, coincidentally it's the birthplace of Dali.

We had a shared love of clown and continued training and realised that maybe instead of us travelling for workshops (although that is really fun!)maybe we should start arranging to host our favourite teachers here in Manchester, well Salford University. As a prelude to that we thought we would see if anyone from the acting scene would be interested in us sharing some clown skills in a skill swap kind of way where others would share something from their practice. There was no Clown scene in Manchester so we were amazed to find around 20 people wanted to come along to this 6 session intro. There was no skill swapping as everyone just wanted to do Clown! and so Clown Lab was born.

This was an amazing time of learning for us. We had no idea what we were doing really, but as Richard Bach says "We teach best what we most need to learn." and we really wanted to learn, to grow into the ridiculous, to learn to play, to follow the laugh to share our joy with the audience, to get them laughing and keep them laughing and to help others do the same. We'll never forget the feeling of the first session, driving into the car park at Adelphi Campus, wondering if anyone would actually show up. And they did.

For several weeks a group of us came together play in Peru Street, Salford.

We would sign in at the front door, wind our way through the rabbit warren of corridors to find an empty dilapidated room somewhere in that magical building where together we would explore this thing called clown, and attempt to crack open the nut of our stupidity. This was where we grew our ridiculous roots. It was beautiful. And it was just the beginning.

We continued to run sessions in Manchester, testing our ideas and building a community. We also started an event for students to test their ideas after working with us, the Occasional Cabaret was it's name. Alongside our students one time we booked the explosive headliner Chris Lynam below.

After a while we begin to bring guest teachers to Manchester, we wanted to serve the community and what better way than bringing quality teachers to the city.

Over the years we have organised workshop with some of the most amazing teachers of idiocy and playful theatre that you can hope to find including;

Philippe Gaulier, John Wright, Mick Barnfather, Aitor Bassuri and Petra Massey from Spymonkey, Jerry Flanagan, Peta Lily, Sam Meylor, John Britton, Jef Johnson, Didi Hopkins, Ollie Crick, Debra and Heriberto Montalvan, Mark Murphy, David Glass and Jeremy Stockwell.

These workshops are always a lot of fun and a great way for us to keep training and playing with folk from all over the country.

Anyway in 2011 we left Manchester to do some more in depth training Alice did the MA Movement Studies at CSSD and Mark went to Etampes to study with Philippe Gaulier, he was offered a scholarship and completed most of the first and second year modules within the year.

Following this year we settled in London and began teaching primarily at Colchester Institute, East 15 and RADA plus making working with Les Femmes Ridicules and A Ship of Fools Theatre company.

We met some fantastic clowns and theatre makers and really built our network outside of Manchester. We met Henry Maynard from Flabbergast Theatre who had started the London Clown fest in Manor park, and whom would help us to produce Clown Fest MCR bang in the centre of Manchester, in Exchange Square. This was a 3 day festival of family and adult clown shows with Headliner Red Bastard (Eric Davis) plus other acts playing the scene and regularly performing at Edinburgh fringe such as The Establishment, Lucy Hopkins and Roshin and Ciara plus our own Ship of Fools (mark and Charles Shetcliffe), as well as newcomers testing material.

In 2016 we returned to Manchester to launch The Performers' Playground.

This is the course where we let everything that we have done really breathe.

Here we bring together all our training and experience into a 14 week course designed to help performers discover their freedom on stage.

This is a unique training and we are super proud to be doing it back here in Manchester where it all began.

The plan is that this will continue to grow and eventually be a 12 month course to empower the next generation of theatre makers, provocateurs, artists and mischief makers.

We are still learning, we aim to be a student on several workshops a year, the more we learn, the more we can teach.

We hope you will come and join us. You will have fun. A lot of fun. Serious Fun.

That's what the course is all about.

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