Yesterday I observed Xaví and Christina as they did their rounds as Tiritín and Gelocatila. Both are 'veterans' with Pallapupas and extremely experienced.
I already knew that Xaví was an excellent clown because I met him on the International Hospital Clown workshop 3 years ago and learned so much from watching him. As well as a clown he is a professional dancer, which for me is a dream combo for good clowning. Apart from being physically capable of doing cool things, clown-dancers tend to be very embodied and aware of where they are in space and time. Crucial to good clowning, and for me, a non-dancer-clown, the work of a lifetime to achieve!
Christina is one of the the head clowns for this hospital. Gelocatila was like everyone's favourite (stupid!) Aunty – everyone was so pleased to see her, and she just seems to radiate love and light.
There were lots of things that impressed me about what I saw yesterday. I don't want them to get all mingled up, so just now I will concentrate on the Artistic side of things that caught my attention the most:
The time and space they allowed themselves to set up/develop a proposition. They were never in a rush and comitted fully to the game and to each other.
For example, they entered the room of a boy they know well who was playing a Pokemon game on his computer. Gelocatina proposed to make Titirín into a 'Pokemon Evolucionado'. The boy went for it so she sat Tirotín down on a box, and he waited, excited and nervous about what was happening (and about the fact that the box might explode...you never know!) Not having any idea about what a Pokemon was, but liking the idea anyway. Gelocatina took her time using hand towels, aprons, face masks and surgical tape to make a totally nonsensical costume. She was totally committed to it which made the whole thing captivating and Tiritín was SO pleased with the results. Meanwhile, the child was giving instructions, and the 2 nurses in the room were crying with laughter. Other parents and children came over to see what was going on, like bees to a honeypot.
They carry the same games and themes through the day, and stick with the problem. Their emotional state evolves with this, so they are always responding honestly and spontaneously. It makes for really creative and funny hospital clowning. I didn't see one thing that I thought, 'oooh i'll use that trick' because it was all unrepeatable, brilliant theatre, totally centred around the children, their parents and the space they were in. They always arrive with 'something' – even if that is just an emotional state, depending on what has just happened – exhaustion, excitement, nerves... I really loved this.
(Example: At the start of the day, Tiritín went down the slide head first in a fit of nervous abandon. It went wrong and for the rest of the morning, he was either recovering or feeling great having recovered, or re-living the anxiety of the experience)
As brilliant as Xaví is, he wouldn't have been able to do any of what I saw without Gelocatila – provoking, supporting, managing. She did this with a real lightness of touch and delight in seeing how he might get himself out of the shit she was putting him in. They quite often separated, but always knew where the other was, and it was always really satisfying when they came back together again. Above all, TRUST.
(When we visited the ward, she prompted one child to squirt Tirotín with water from a syringe as he exited a room. Later, when Tirotín decided to take revenge with an even bigger syringe (knowing that of course it would be Titotín that would end up soaked, and not the boy) Gelocatila called ahead to the boys room to warn him to get ready! Tirotín was ambushed in the corridor!)
I laughed so much yesterday, and it occurred to me again, as I watched those two nurses crying with laughter with me, that the key to integration is being able to be THAT funny! Who wouldn't want them around if that is how they make you feel?
More on this tomorrow...
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.