(Written while in post as AD for Hearts & Minds)
“Making fun is serious business. It calls for deep study, for concentrated observation” Charlie Chaplin
We take the artistic quality of our interactions as Clowndoctors and Elderflowers extremely seriously. In a healthcare or school environment we have no contract with our audience. No-one buys a ticket. No-one books to come to us. There are no reviews from theatre critics. We enter the space, often at a time when people are in a time of crisis, anxiety or pain. The stakes are high and the possibility of us making the situation worse rather than better is real. To make certain that our visits have a consistently positive impact requires artistic rigor, professionalism and continual high-quality training.
And the training for this work is as rich and nuanced as the work itself.
We need to attend to ourselves as actors and our ability to work with control, clarity and intelligence. We need to attend to ourselves as clowns and our ability to be truly alive to the moment, able to believe with our whole hearts in the importance of the task at hand. Our improvisation skills need to be constantly honed. We need to work on our technical skill – singing, mime, puppetry, musical instruments – so that we can bring our imaginations to life and transform experiences for the better. We need to understand how to work non-verbally and with all our senses. We need to build trust as an ensemble and in partnerships. We need to understand the complexity of environments in which we work in order to work effectively alongside healthcare professionals and teaching staff.
Thanks to support from Creative Scotland this year, our bi-monthly team training days have been supplemented by three separate weekends led by outside trainers. Sophie Gazel, Ira Seidenstein and Cai Tomos will between them give us fresh tools, techniques and ways to understand our practice, our artform and our impact. These expert perspectives help us to see ourselves and the work more clearly. To pinpoint where we need to work and how we might do so.
I understood when I first put on a red nose in 2006 that to call myself clown was to commit myself to a lifetime of learning. That is even more true when that clowning is in the service of others.
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.