Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Torment

Philippe Gaulier, master teacher of the clowns, has a book out called The Tormentor. It's an apt title. Torment is one of the key agonies of working in this field.

The more you work the further into the void you look. It's a place where everything is ridiculous: our behaviour, our competitiveness, our personalities, our beliefs, our mortality - it's all valid comic territory and nothing is taboo. The trick when sharing the stage is to stay light and not to react defensively and that's very hard as we ridicule the very principles by which we've each forged an existence.

It's a brave and frightened act all at once, and the rules of playing in such a universe seem to be ordained by a randomly provocative and cruel God, who mocks everything - on occasions the teacher performs the part.

The final exercise run by Kasia had Paka standing, red nosed, on stage repeating 'I don't know what I'm doing...' in as many ways as she could. The instruction was that she could add '...but it's ok!' but only when it actually was!

For twenty minutes Paka tried everything shouting, singing, running from up to downstage, in slow motion, one word at a time, apologising, laughing, in Spanish, magic tricks, etc etc etc. but, because we could accept such a performance, she never got to the 'it's ok!' She needed to do something else.

Eventually she gave up and stopped acting. Kasia drove her on and in exhaustion she looked at us and without act or attitude said

'I don't know what I'm doing ... but it's ok!' It was the first time she, the actor, met us, the audience with the simple truth.

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