When I first started clowning in Barcelona, all of my role models were male street clowns. They would march up and down La Rambla, provoking, being mischievous, doing whatever they liked, basically. And people loved it becasue it made them laugh. Even if sometimes the joke was on an audience member. The terraces were often rowdy, especially on international football match days, but these were 'big hat' days for the clowns, and they could handle it.
I realised quickly that even as an extremely resilient person (which I am not), working in this way in the street as a woman would leave me feeling vulnerable and unsafe. In fact it would BE unsafe. But I have always felt that street clowning is an amazing training ground. And when it is done well, it is a joy to watch. Since then, I have wanted to make a piece that gives me not only the opportunity to play as a clown in this fun and liberating way, but that also makes something of this female experience of public space. And so Werewomen was born. And boy did it have a baptism of fire!
Our first outing coincided with an international Rugby match. The streets were full of huge, drunk men. We were intimidated. And here is where the steep learning curve comes in.
Our first outing: we got stuck having our photos taken, drunk men coming up, being sexually aggresive, dry humping us. The fact that the immediate instinct for groups of men when they see female performers is to dominate and humiliate is disappointing but not surprising. It is the reason I have not clowned on the street on my own before. We came away feeling frustrated and angry. Feeling like the joke was on us.
Second outing: Every time a man came up to us - and they did - we rounded on them. At once. And all together. And it worked. I've never felt so liberated and powerful. And needless to say, the audience found it hilarious (especially the women).
Werewomen gives us the opportunity to focus on being good, funny clowns - to be open, present, vulnerable and playful - making eye contact, accepting invitations - but also to be fierce and unafraid to take up space. It allows us to truly be the whole of ourselves as women. A Beth said to me in rehearsals, The Werewomen are so powerful and unassailable that we can engage with anybody!
Diane Thornton, Beth Frieden and I tested out a brand new piece of street performance this weekend in Edinburgh as part of PITCH! - Surge's platform for showcasing new physical theatre work. Fergus designed the wonderful costumes.
We had spent a few days devising and rehearsing, but the real material only starts to emerge when you are in costume, with a real audience. I love working outdoors, becasue the learning curve is so steep - you can see very quickly what doesn't work and what does, and making mistakes and taking risks is an important part of that process. It is liberating, and a lot of fun.
We have work still to do to make it as kick-ass as i think the piece can be, but I feel confident after Saturday that the concept is sound! Onwards to Physical Fest on 28th May!
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.