I bring clowning to the workshops as it gives so much pleasure and laughter to the children. Many of them have had such difficult lives; it seems only right that they have a chance for a good laugh and some fun. As they have seen little live performance I start the workshop with a short routine where there is plenty of audience involvement. I then show them a few comic skits based around the park bench. Trying to read someone else’s newspaper, and dealing with a stranger falling asleep on your shoulder. It reminds these children, (as it does to all children that I have taught), of Mr Bean, and it is an opportunity to introduce them to the silent world of Charlie Chaplin. I invite them to try out the routines.
Great clowns allow their vulnerability to be laughed at by an audience. This is a challenge for the students where their normal playground attitude is to laugh at others and maybe try to dominate. I tell them it is the only time they can be stupid and silly enough to fall for the joke! In devising the routines they learn to work cooperatively with their partner allowing them to sometimes win. They soon get the idea and I am always encouraging them to find their own imaginative twist to the routines. We discover the odd student with a natural sense of comedy.
Clowning is, of course, about making other people laugh. In a workshop situation where participants are searching for creative ideas that may be humorous, they can discover other talents. These children can dance and sing.
They have a joy in dancing to hip-hop music, and most are very capable of following the dance steps. I introduce the idea of a clown being in a dance troupe attempting to dance correctly, but making plenty of mistakes and causing havoc to the rest of his or her fellow dancers. They love the idea and are happy to try.
In introducing the clown that sings we find one small girl who is a very good singer. She is able and confident enough to lead the others in many Nepalese children songs that everyone seems to know. It great to see them all join in and then others also have a go at leading. It is a wonderful way of bringing the group together.
The drama exercises have really brought a stronger sense of focus with the group, allowing me to introduce slap-stick. That is clown fights. Including pulling hair, pulling ears and the face slap. Given their difficult lives, both Anne and I are surprised how well they co-operate with each other. They start to add the slap stick to their role play with the school teacher, student routine being the most popular. Having the teacher being told off by the student gives them a lot of joy. It is allowing this sense of naughtiness, within a theatrical frame work that makes clowning for children so challenging and yet so much fun