Hello this is Charlie again.
Today I am recapping our adventures in bouffon and how very quickly the showcase on July 7th & 8th is approaching. Not that I’m plugging it or anything.
Bouffon. Quite a lot has happened in this module. I think it has been the most heated module during the latter weeks. I was speaking to Cathy and Sean (pictured at their finest below) on the way home from one of a few lenghty conversations about the kind of political and social topics we were exploring, and I think in bouffon the range and darkness of the topics you can talk about really makes you feel like you could explore anything, and because of this it seems to explode people’s passion for a particular subject or topic. FINALLY I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY. IT"S ABOUT PEOPLE’S MORAL HYPOCRISY. The only trouble is you are in a room full of artists who all have these little hidden passions locked in a small box marked ‘do not open until the year 2018’ that they have been wanting to discuss, and so we’ve seen a real range and mix of topics. But I’ve enjoyed the vocal debates we’ve had about the aim of the work.
Sean and Cathy looking fantastic.
Bouffon, as I understand it, are the lowest of society, the outcasts, the lepers, the almost sub-human. We’ve been told a story to illustrate this. When the French King was accused of being mad the courtiers would go into the swamp lands of France to find a madman. Then they’d bring the madman into the court of the French King and be able to declare to declare the King is not mad, this is a true madman. The bouffon, being mad, being the lowest of society, is able to spout truths to the king. They have nothing to lose. Well, actually, they still have their lives to lose. So the bouffon has to tread lightly, if they go too far with their f**k yous, they must apologise with sincerity. But we can easily forgive the madman, for he is mad, what can they know.
So when you play bouffon there is a real power to what you play. And also you get to look hideous and it’s great. You put loads of padding on, you make it so that your face looks dirty, you black out some of your teeth, maybe you make it so you only have one arm, or so that your walking is impaired. It is an absolute delight to play bouffon. It allows a lot of fun to be disgusting, or to have a speech impediment. But even writing this I can hear alarm bells ringing: ‘Is that ok? Is that a commentary on those who do have impediments, who are physically less able?’. There is certainly some delicacy to the field, but for me, and from what we have been taught, we are never making fun of the less fortunate, the intention is never to parody them. The intention is to make fun of the audience, to disturb their views, to use the bouffon to parody common held views. And, as liberal minded people, we did get into a discussion our privilege as performers in a predominantly white, working to middle class room, and I don’t really know how to sum up my opinions on that. But I do know that the bouffon are proud of their faults, and that, internally or externally, every human is faulty in some way. So as well as finding the fun in playing with our physical faults, I have immensely enjoyed finding the everyday hypocrisies inside ourselves.
He's up and then he's down.
As we move towards our showcase the pressure to devise has really ramped up. This has led to some situations where it has been difficult to find the pleasure, and, for myself I haven’t had some shining light of inspiration - ‘Everybody, everybody, this is what I want to present. Gasp. Why he's done it!’. But what we have started to discover is how to search for the clarity in a scene, and how to find the aim of what we want to make. And it's been great to try a be a contribution to this, though I do get very passionate and opinionated at times. All times.
I do think, though, I’ve started to discover the importance of handing over to the ‘writer’ of the scene when devising in large ensemble groups. We play, we try some new directions, but at the end of it we have to return to whoever is in charge of the material and ask them, is this what you want the work to do. Otherwise the work has no centre, no fixed point, and no clarity. In whatever you do clarity is so important. With clarity you can make some very beautiful work.
Bouffon has also ignited something I have touched upon in the past: finding the target. For us the target in a liberal, left-wing audience. We’ve found plenty of pleasure in criticising right-wing or conservative agendas, in corporate capitalism, but finding targets in our own beliefs, in our closest company, has exposed really important issues, and is a far more challenging process. Because that’s where we start to find the dangerous line of bouffon.’ Oooh, oooh, oooo, have I gone too far, are you angry? Are you going to murder me? OHOHOHOHO, AHAHAHA.’
If you are reading this you either know me or someone on the course too well, or, alternatively you are a clown fanatic and need to come see our showcase at Z-arts, 7th & 8th July. Tickets available here.