End of week 1 Bouffon at Gaulier.
This week has gone extremely quickly. By which I mean, I’ve not written up my experiences at the end of each day. A lot has happened since my past post a few days ago.
I’ll write a proper summary of the week over the weekend, but the overriding focus for me this week has been a restlessness due to my sore back and general mental turmoil – part of this includes the desire to enter more fully in the highly-physical exercises while still having to restrict myself so I don’t hurt myself.
This focus is not to do with the teaching… it’s just where I’ve been most of the week… focusing on keeping my back healthy and trying to deal with the return of my usual negative thought spirals (it seems there’s nothing like injuring yourself badly for drowning out the negative self-talk for a few days!)
The basic format of the Bouffon course, compared to the first course of Le Jeu, is similar. We have movement in the mornings – which is actually more of the audience+performer format than the everybody-all-in format that we had with the teachers in Le Jeu. Then, in the afternoons with Gauiler, we’ll have some exercises that involve dressing up in various different “shapes” of Bouffon (dwarf, big stomach, hunchback) and doing particular performances.
Like many things at Gaulier, it’s hard to know what he’s looking for at any
The history and idea behind bouffon deserves its own post. But, the big theme this week goes back to something I wrote about the other day… of being lovable.
There’s a strange dynamic in bouffon that I’ve still not worked out.
It seems to be a mix of:
- Ridicule – Saying “fuck you” to the audience (who, in the history of bouffon, are your oppressors)
- Parody– Making fun of particular aspects of a person in a position of power.
- Being lovable and beautiful – This is a tricky one. It’s being beautiful and charming and endearing.
- Being ugly– The costume of bouffon seems to take this into account. It creates deformity and you are forced to move or act beautifully despite that deformity.
There’s an interesting dynamic there: being lovable and beautiful, and being ugly at the same time.
We should love the bouffon but also be repulsed by them.
One common reference for this that I can think of is impressionists. Or perhaps more the type of impressionists in Bo Selecta or Spitting Image – TV shows where the impressions are not realistic. Instead they are grotesque.
How is bouffon useful to my performance?
I can see the activities we’ve been doing as useful in doing characters and impressions in both improv and stand-up comedy, for my performance anyway.
The only thing I still have to work over is to be “lovable” on stage.
I still haven’t managed to find that in myself.
Today I got the feedback that I delivered my lines as “the most constipated” actor in my group.
What does that mean? To deliver lines in a “constipated” way? Well, Philippe didn’t explain. But, when I asked him afterwards, he did tell me to ask him again on Monday, as he wanted to answer in front of the rest of the class.
But a friend did explain afterwards that it seemed today like my lines were “trapped inside me.”
Which was helpful.
Today and yesterday, as I say, my mental chatter has restarted after some days of relative silence. And that has certainly pulled me back into my own thoughts.
So maybe that was what Philippe was picking up on.
The stage is, after all, a magnifying glass.