On wednesday I went to observe Alegria Intensiva working in the Hospital de Niños Dr. Ricardo Gutierréz. I brought my camera, a dictaphone, 2 notebooks and my phone so that I could capture EVERYTHING about the experience.
In the end, so transfixed was I by Dra. Perla and Dr. Bernardo, I just watched. And laughed. A lot.
Dra Perla and Dr Bernardo visit 2 waiting rooms and 2 wards every wednesday, between 0930 and 12.00. They hope to start visiting twice a week, but having these conversations with hospital managers in the winter is apparently impossible, because of the huge strain on services.
As soon as I set eyes on Dra. Perla and Dr. Bernardo I fell in love. And the theme of Love - who loved who, who would marry who, how much they did or didn't love one another - carried them both through the morning. A motif that kept them together, and present throughout. They were brilliant at staying with one game and taking it to it's furthest point - beautifully supportive of each other. Their status and agenda was clear, which made them really easy and lovely to watch.
I see this as one benefit to staying with the same partnership in the same unit over a long period of time. When it goes well, you really get the chance to push one another creatively, surprise your partner, build on stories and relationships. Their characterisation is very similar to that of the Elderflowers - it is really interesting to see how this works in the context of a children's hospital.
The visits of waiting rooms start with music and build into little shows. People flock from all over, and soon what was 20 people, turns into maybe 100. Apparently today it is less busy than usual. As a performer, it seems very challenging. The acoustics are terrible, so they really have to project their voices to be heard, and the 'audience' is tired and anxious. Gradually, the smiles and laughter bubbles up, and as they leave, there is a tangible difference in mood and energy in the room. Like a kind of satisfied exhalation. The second waiting room is more 'successful'. It is a tiny space, but with everybody so tightly packed, a simple 'following' game has everyone giggling. The clowns create a real sense of community. People look up, see one another, connect, laugh.
The two wards are more familiar territory for me, in that Perla and Bernardo visit children in their rooms, and do so in a very similar way to us at Hearts and Minds. There are children and families that they know well, others they don't. Dra Perla is always in charge, and more verbal than the timid, romantic Dr Bernardo. There are subtle differences that I am still processing - cultural and to do with the specifics of the hospital.
Next week I am going to join them on the floor...I feel intimidated, excited, humble and most of all curious to see what on earth Dr Maybee will get up to! One thing for sure is that I will be in safe hands with these two love-bugs.
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.